New Chicago Nonprofit Packs 10,000 Backpacks For Kids In Need

CHICAGO (CBS) — The new school year kicks off in just a few weeks, but many students in Chicago do not have the basic supplies to be successful.

Cradles to Crayons held Thursday its Inaugural Ready for School Backpack-A-Thon at the Hilton Chicago. The national nonprofit, who recently launched in Chicago, teamed up with state and city leaders, as well as more than 200 volunteers from Chicago’s leading companies to fill 10,000 brand-new backpacks with school supplies for local children living in low-income and homeless situations.

The backpack program is the Chicago chapter’s first major event, WBBM’s Mariam Sobh reports. The 10,000 backpacks “will be delivered in the next couple days to children in Chicago who might not have the things they need to start school,” said Bernard Cherkasov, Cradles to Crayons Executive Director in Chicago.

The backpacks are packed with new age-appropriate school supplies, including notebooks, calculators, pencils, and rulers.

“Every single one of our backpacks will also include a well-wish note for the kids,” Cherkasov said, “It will have messages like ‘I’m rooting for you’ and ‘I’m thinking of you’ because children need to know that there is someone in this world that is caring just for them.”

Studies show that Chicago has nearly 200,000 children living in low-income or poverty situations.

“We all play a role in ensuring our children have the tools they need to be successful in school and in life, which is why I am proud to welcome Cradles to Crayons to Chicago to lend their support as we work to ensure all of our children are prepared for school on day one,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel, in a statement. “Chicago’s students are making tremendous gains in the classroom, and it is incumbent upon all of us to remove every barrier to learning that we can, regardless of their family’s income or which neighborhood they live in—to continue our children’s success.”

In its first year of operation, Cradles to Crayons will serve at least 16,000 children in Chicago, 10,000 through the Ready for School program.

“This Cradles to Crayons Backpack-A-Thon is about Chicagoans coming together to serve kids living in need in our own community,” Cherkasov said in a statement. “When kids don’t have access to the essentials they need to learn, they fall behind their peers, they don’t do as well in school, and some will face lifelong struggles to overcome that as a result. Our goal is to serve kids by giving them the essentials they need to learn, grow, and thrive, so they can engage in all aspects of childhood with confidence.”

Cradles to Crayons, which also serves children in the greater Boston and Philadelphia areas, aims to support children living in poverty by connecting them with critically needed essentials that all children need to thrive.

“The things that we pass down to the kids are either new or like new,” said Cherkasov.

The new and gently used donated items include clothing, shoes, books, toys, nursery items, baby safety gear, brand new school and art supplies, and hygiene items.

In addition to the Ready for School initiative, Cradles to Crayons also hosts three additional programs to provide yearlong support to local children, they said in a statement. These programs including Gear Up for Baby, helping caregivers with limited resources get all the items a brand new baby needs; Gear Up for Winter geared toward collecting cold weather items; and Spring Greening, which focuses on warm weather items and the benefit of reusing high-quality items instead of adding them to landfill.

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