With the need as great as ever in these unprecedented times, The Multicultural Centre of Southwest Florida is proud to announce that the 21st annual Big Backpack Event for Lee County school children will be held as scheduled from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday, July 26, at the Fort Myers Skatium located at 2250 Broadway.
In an effort to maintaIn social distancing, families can expect a very different event experience this year. Parents and students will remain in their vehicles as they approach the Skatium and be greeted by the sights and sounds of live music and street performers to celebrate back-to-school. Children must accompany parents or guardians in the vehicle in order for them to receive a backpack. Each vehicle will be directed by volunteers to slowly drive-by to pickup new backpacks, essential school supplies, snacks, and other fun giveaways curbside- all in an effort to keep volunteers, students and families safe and healthy. 2,000 new backpacks will be given out on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Since early March, the coronavirus pandemic has created monumental hardships on families making the cost of back-to-school supplies an overwhelming burden. Event organizers with The Multicultural Centre of Southwest Florida were determined to find a way to support families during these difficult times without jeopardizing safety and wellbeing. Thanks to individual and business sponsors, The Big Backpack Event will provide much needed economic relief, supplying the first 2,000 children, ages 5-12, with new backpacks filled with pencils, pens, paper, crayons, folders and other essential back-to-school items. Other curbside stations will provide snacks and other giveaways.
No event activities will be held inside the Skatium and no parking will be permitted. Families who arrive by bus or on foot will be able receive backpacks for their children in a designated area clearly marked that will provide social distancing of 6 feet between each family. Masks are required.
“The thought of having to cancel The BIG Backpack Event at a time when unemployment is high and families are in crisis weighed heavily on our hearts,” says event public relations and marketing chair Connie Ramos-Williams, president of CONRIC PR & Marketing. “We are excited to collaborate with the City of Fort Myers to make this curbside back-to-school celebration and giveaway a reality.”
Near 40,000 backpacks have been distributed to families over the event’s 20-year history. The event draws close to 5,000 people in attendance each year, with the largest crowd reaching 15,000 during the height of the recession back in 2008. An estimated 80 percent of Lee County children currently qualify for free or reduced meal programs at their schools and that was prior to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our mission is to help Lee County school children of all cultures start the new school year with confidence and pride as they arrive back to school with new backpacks and school supplies,” said Leonardo Garcia, executive director of the Multicultural Centre of Southwest Florida. “Every $10 donated provides a child with a new backpack and school supplies and we are so grateful to everyone who makes it possible for us to host this event to support thousands of kids and families.”