It’s become annual ritual for the good-hearted volunteers who come to the AASA national conference, to take an hour out of their professional learning to stuff children’s backpacks with necessary items.
The event, known as Blessings in a Backpack, drew several dozen conference participants Friday morning, where they filled 1,000 packs with school supplies for needy students that subsequently were delivered to two San Antonio schools: Dr. Martha Mead Elementary School and Peggy Carnahan Elementary School. Both are part of the Northside Independent School District.
A pair of superintendents working alongside one another, Michelle Price and Krestin Bahr, both from Washington state, were excited at the chance to volunteer in between attending to their professional growth at the conference.
“As superintendents, we have a responsibility to be service oriented and volunteer when we can. This opportunity from AASA is wonderful,” said Bahr, who serves as superintendent of Peninsula School District in Gig Harbor, Wash.
Price, who heads the North Central Educational Service District in Wenatchee, Wash., noted that Blessings in a Backpack played an especially significant role supporting children during the pandemic when many schools went into remote operations. “Our staff had the backpacks ready for them to pick up, and the students dropped by to pick them up,” she said.
They and the other volunteers followed an orderly process as they loaded cereal, cans of pineapple, pasta, chicken noodle soup and bags of crackers.
Several of the volunteers at the stuffing event have the Blessings in a Backpack program at their schools, while others have similar programs in place sponsored by local charitable organizations.
Two volunteers from Ottawa, Ontario — Kristine Burgoyne and Carrie-Ann Gravel — were drawn to volunteer because of their familiarity with the program run by the Ontario Network for Education. Both of their schools receive breakfast, lunch and backpacks for their students.
Chad Coauette, CEO of Sourcewell, said he jumped at the opportunity for his company to partner with AASA on the annual activity at the conference. “Kids need nutritious meals and this is a great way to help those who are in need,” he said.
Watching the volunteers work, you could see the emotion in their face and in their body movements. All of them knew the backpack they were filling would soon fill the stomach of a local San Antonio child, and that made their efforts a blessing.
(Brad Domitrovich is a senior editor on AASA’s Conference Daily Online and a communication consultant in Georgetown, Texas.)