When Julie Bristol, Gause Elementary School social worker, told students that her only birthday wish was for enough food donations to last the Weekend Backpack Program for the rest of the school year, she got that and then some.
“The goal was to bring in 2,400 food and personal items,” Bristol said. “The students and families exceeded that goal and brought in more than 4,200.”
The Weekend Backpack Program sends food home with students who may not have enough to eat through the weekend, so they come to school ready to learn on Monday morning.
The program helps families at Gause Elementary, Hathaway Elementary, Washougal and Excelsior high schools, and is coordinated with Children’s Home Society. It also receives items from Stuff the Bus donations.
To add incentives to Bristol’s birthday challenge, contests were held to see what classrooms could bring in the most food. But the project also struck a chord with students.
“Kids made comments that demonstrated that they truly understood the need that this food was meeting,” Bristol explained.
“They know that the food may be for a classmate or a friend, and they want to help. Food donations continue to come in, even though the contest is over and there is nothing to win. Our students have learned valuable lessons about compassion, empathy, and supporting the whole community.”