Florida Hospital's annual "Backpacks for Kids" campaign delivered school supplies to children in need around Central Florida just in time for the start of school. Thousands of pencils, crayons, folders, notebooks and other supplies were collected at Florida Hospital Orlando on Wednesday, and will be dispersed to Hungerford, Killarney, Fern Creek, and Princeton elementary schools, as well as the Bithlo community.
Representatives of recipient elementary schools say they are grateful each year for what Backpacks for Kids provides.
"We serve students from the Coalition for the Homeless and the Parramore district, so a lot of our students sometimes struggle with getting supplies and what they need for school," said Jason Fritz, principal of Fern Creek Elementary School. "Having donations like this and supplies provided for our students allows them to be successful from day one."
Backpacks for Kids was launched in 2001 by Florida Hospital employees who wanted to extend the hospital's mission by helping children whose families cannot afford necessary items for school. Last year, Backpacks for Kids provided 2,422 backpacks with pencils, crayons, folders, notebooks and other supplies donated by employees.
Susan Robins, a pediatric program manager for outpatient rehabilitation at Florida Hospital, and her team contributed a backpack full of supplies to the drive.
"We think it's a great way to extend the healing ministry of Christ and show that we support the community," Robins said. "We know there are a lot of kids who can't afford the [supplies] they need to go back to school, so we wanted to help."
Backpacks for Kids benefits elementary schools throughout Orange County. In Bithlo, Florida Hospital is working with United Global Outreach and other partners in a multi-pronged effort to transform the community across nine areas: education, transportation, housing, basic needs, building a sense of community, health care, environment, economic opportunity and the arts.
"Caring for our community and our neighbors outside facility walls is an integral part of Florida Hospital's mission," said Verbelee Nielsen-Swanson, vice president of community impact for Florida Hospital. "Florida Hospital team members look forward to the annual Backpacks for Kids campaign as one way to do this."
Backpacks for Kids is just one of the ways Florida Hospital employees help residents in Central Florida through contributions that meet basic needs. Earlier this year, Florida Hospital employees donated more than 9,500 pounds of food and more than $11,000 to those less fortunate in Central Florida through the annual Canned Food Drive. The program feeds hundreds of thousands of hungry Central Floridians through a partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank.