Arlington's Back2School Rally helps kids prepare for school | SLIDESHOW

ARLINGTON — The third annual Back2School Rally at Presidents Elementary drew an estimated 800 attendees on Sunday, Aug. 19, as local families in need of supplies to start the school year packed the playground to line up for their backpacks that afternoon.

Event coordinator Brianna Johnson, the children’s pastor at the Arlington Assembly of God Church, explained that backpacks containing school supplies were made available not only to the 300 pre-registrants for this year’s event, but also to as many as 70 walk-ins.

In addition to the nearly 100 volunteers who helped put the event together, Back2School Rally organizers also named the Arlington Assembly of God Church and the Rotary Club of Arlington as Gold Star sponsors for donating $1,000 each, just as the Kiwanis CLUB of Arlington was named a Silver Star sponsor for donating $500. The Northwest Hair Academy of Mount Vernon and JCPenney also donated free back-to-school haircuts to the children of families who attended the Back2School Rally.

“I cannot say ‘thank you’ enough to our generous community,” said Arlington School District Superintendent Dr. Kris McDuffy, who was joined by several teachers and staff members of Presidents Elementary and other Arlington schools. “I also want you to know that we have a fantastic group of compassionate and dedicated professionals who are ready to help you kick off the 2012-13 school year.”

Johnson and her fellow volunteers handed out coffee mugs to each of the school staff members who were present, to show their appreciation to them for “investing in what’s important,” a theme Johnson returned to when speaking to the families before they received their backpacks and school supplies.

“My challenge to all the students and parents here this year is to invest in what’s important,” Johnson said. “Integrity, love and relationships are all things that really count and matter and last. Sometimes we get confused and focus on things that don’t last. It’s okay to like toys or money or clothes, but not when they take the place of your relationships.”

Although the backpacks and school supplies are material goods, Johnson sees them as an investment in the quality of local students’ education, especially given the difficulties that many families face due to ongoing economic troubles.

“If it wasn’t for this, I wouldn’t be able to fully get them what they needed,” said Heather Trippel, whose two sons are going into Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program and second grade at Presidents Elementary this fall, respectively. “It’s really cool how much stuff they’re offering, even stuff like the candy and balloons and face-painting. The boys love it, and I’m hugely appreciative.”

Joan Anderson only has one child, who’s starting kindergarten at Presidents Elementary this school year, but it’s no less of a relief for her not to have to worry about buying a new backpack and school supplies.

“I’ve been out of work for more than a year,” said Anderson, who’d been employed in the banking industry. “My husband still has a job, but one income is just not enough nowadays. We probably could have made due, but now we can use these funds for things like groceries. This is a really great service, but it’s scary to see how many people have to be here.”

The school supplies in each backpack were sorted according to each individual student’s grade level and school, then handed out by volunteers at color-coded tables, with each color covering an alphabetical grouping of last names to distribute everyone in line evenly. The parents had to have their children present to collect their backpacks, and every child got his or her hand stamped to avoid the risk of duplication.


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