Backpack giveaway a success at Richmond PAL center

Richmond PALCenter volunteer Destiney Norsouvanh handing a backpack to 2nd Grade student Keenan Holiday during the Backpack Giveaway event.

Richmond PALCenter volunteer Destiney Norsouvanh handing a backpack to 2nd Grade student Keenan Holiday during the Backpack Giveaway event.

On Tuesday morning, hundreds of kids and parents descended on the Richmond Police Activities League (PAL) gymnasium for a giveaway of free backpack full of school supplies. Kids were able to play on the two inflatable jump houses while music was provided by band members from the Richmond PAL center.

“It’s always good to see the community come out and interact with law enforcement in a positive way,” said Sgt. Brian Dickerson of the Richmond Police Department. “One of our goals at the department is to mentor kids to keep them on the right path and away from negative influences.”

Utility company PG&E donated 400 backpacks filled with pencils, rulers, and notebooks, and also provided volunteers who staffed the event, including Richmond High School students Destiney Norsouvanh and Pearla Ponce. Other donations were made by the Richmond Rockets franchise, the Richmond PAL and the Richmond police officers’ and managers’ unions. The event was organized and led by Ellen Ellery, a KTVU news executive.

While last year’s event featured local Major League baseball stars such as Oakland A’s pitcher Gio Gonzalez, kids were rewarded this year with goodie bags filled with healthy snacks. More than a dozen local police officers were also on hand to interact with the crowd at the Police Activities League gym.

“This backpack is cool and I get to show it off to my friends at school,” said Keenan Holiday, a second grade student at Rodeo Hills Elementary who arrived with his mother to pick up his backpack.

“This was the back-to-school backpack event’s sixth year, and it’s been a labor of love,” Ellery said. “It’s important to give back to the community like this, especially with all the economic troubles people are facing today.”

Ellery said she launched the backpack giveaway program 6 years ago with a tax rebate she received after she saw a young girl crying in a store because she couldn’t afford all of her school supplies. She said the program is intended to benefit kids whose families may not be able to afford the necessary supplies for the coming school year, and that she has seen the program grown in size over the years.

Tamar Sarkissian, a PG&E spokesperson, said that PG&E has already donated $50,000 to numerous non-profit programs in Richmond this year and will continue to lend support in future community events.

“This is the second year we’ve been involved in this, and it’s great to see so many kids excited about going to school,” said Sarkissian. “We are committed to giving back to the Richmond community and supporting the future of our children.”

Here’s a link to Richmond Confidential’s previous coverage of the Backpack Giveaway.

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