A local teacher’s summertime tradition is providing a lesson in generosity while helping students in need.
A few weeks before school starts, J.H. McGaugh Elementary school teacher Lyndsey Gardner gathers friends and family for a party with a purpose. At the annual “Backpack Bash” in Seal Beach, guests are asked to bring backpacks filled with essential school supplies.
“Being a teacher, I know the importance of coming to school prepared,” Gardner, who teaches first grade, wrote in an email. “My kids are fortunate enough to not have to think twice about having all the needed school supplies but that is obviously not the case for many children.”
The 4th annual Backpack Bash held in late July was a success. (Full disclosure: I was a guest at the event.)
Gardner collected 46 backpacks for students from TK through 8th grade. The backpacks were filled with back-to-school essentials like notebooks, binders, crayons and more. They were delivered last week to Oak Street School in Inglewood thanks to a connection made through McGaugh’s former principal, Issaic Gates. Gates is now an Assistant Superintendent in Inglewood Unified.
“We have a lot of students that are foster youth and a lot of students that can’t afford to buy school supplies,” Oak Street Principal Alyssa O’Grady said in a recent phone interview.
Based on the Amazon shopping lists compiled for the Backpack Bash, the school supplies cost anywhere from $75 to more than $100 per student. And that’s not including the price of a backpack.
Backpacks have already been distributed to some of the 450 students at Oak Street which starts school on August 22. O’Grady said the effort positively impacts students, including sparking a change in their outlook and behavior.
“Once one of our students, who has had some behavior challenges in the past, received his backpack … you could just tell, he was so excited. Coming into the school year with new supplies and a new backpack … it just made him excited for school,” O’Grady said.
Making kids excited for school is one of the outcomes Gardner was aiming for. She said she was inspired to start the backpack bash tradition after attending a Seal Beach family’s Christmas party years ago. At that party, guests brought gifts from wish lists written by children living at an orphanage. The hosts would then deliver the gifts to the children.
“Our family loved this idea so much that we wanted to create a similar tradition,” Gardner said. In the past, her backpack bashes have led to donations to another Inglewood school as well as the Boys and Girls Club and the City of Los Alamitos.
“My hope is that this tradition would help my kids find the joy in giving and simultaneously make them aware of the needs of others that live near and far,” Gardner said. She brought her two kids, both McGaugh students, with her to deliver the backpacks at Oak Street School. “I do hope it helps foster the spirit of giving in the community.”
For the community at Oak Street in Inglewood, the donation has fostered a spirit of excitement for the upcoming school year.
“We want to say thank you to the community and everyone that supported and provided our students with the backpacks,” O’Grady said. “We appreciate it.”
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