Last updated on April 21, 2014 at 8:55 EDT

United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey Joins Forces with Cradles to Crayons to Prepare Students for School

August 9, 2012

More than 500 Volunteers fill 20,000 backpacks with school supplies in less than two hours

PHILADELPHIA, August 9, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Nearly 500 volunteers gathered yesterday at Lincoln Financial Field to pack 20,000 backpacks with school supplies for low-income and homeless children as part of United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey and Cradles to Crayons’ 2012 Backpack-A-Thon(TM).

(Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20120809/DC55452)

The day started off with remarks from Philadelphia Eagles President Don Smolenski, Cradles to Crayons Executive Director Michal Smith, Walmart Director of Operations Amy Corso, President & CEO of Citizens Bank and RBS Citizens for Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware Daniel K. Fitzpatrick, United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey President & CEO Jill Michal and ACE Group Vice President of Marketing Larry Hastings. All thanked those in attendance for offering their time to help children in need be prepared for the first day of school and beyond. Following the opening program, lively music from a DJ allowed volunteers to stay energized as they filled the backpacks in assembly line fashion, making sure that each bag received folders, pens, pencils, rulers and other supplies that children need to succeed in the classroom.

The largest one-day back-to-school event in the region, the 2012 Backpack-A-Thon sets out to help children start the school year equipped with the tools needed to succeed in the classroom. As the poorest of the nation’s 10 largest cities, Philadelphia’s child poverty rate is the highest it’s been in 50 years. As a result, parents from economically-challenged backgrounds often find it difficult to provide their children with the most basic of needs, including school supplies. And statistics show that children from low-income communities start first grade up to two years behind their peers from moderate- to upper-income households.

Jill Michal said the partnership makes it possible for children in need to start the school year on a level playing field.

“For many, their education will be the strongest economic equalizer they will ever know,” Michal said. “It’s our belief that all children — whether they’re coming from a shelter, a foster home or a home where parents are struggling to make ends meet — deserve to start the new school year with all the tools they’ll need to achieve.”

Michal Smith applauded the volunteers who came together to make the first day of school an exciting event for children in need.

“However, there are still a large number of children who need our help,” she added, pointing out that from 2000 to 2010, poverty rose to affect one in five children in the Philadelphia region. “With rates rising faster in suburban communities, it makes it imperative that Cradles to Crayons keeps the backpacks filled year round.”

Cradles to Crayons and United Way are proud to have the following organizations as 2012 Backpack-A-Thon sponsors: Platinum Sponsors – Citizens Bank, Philadelphia Eagles and Walmart; Gold Sponsors: Aberdeen Assets, ACE Group, Cigna and SAP.

For additional information, please visit www.LiveUnitedsepa.org/BackpackAThon.

*Backpack-A-Thon is a trademark of Cradles to Crayons.

About United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey

United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, serving communities in Pennsylvania’s Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties, and New Jersey’s Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May and Cumberland counties , is part of a national network of more than 1,300 locally governed organizations that work to create lasting positive changes in communities and in people’s lives. United Way engages the community to identify the underlying causes of the most significant local issues, develops strategies and pulls together financial and human resources to address them, and measures the results. United Way is advancing the common good in Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey by positively impact the lives of people throughout the region in the areas of education, income, and health.

About Cradles to Crayons

Cradles to Crayons collects new and gently used essential items for children in low-income and homeless situations from birth to age 12 in the five-county southeastern Pennsylvania area. The items are contributed by families, corporations, schools and community partners who conduct local product collections and deliver them to Cradles to Crayons’ West Conshohocken warehouse. Volunteers inspect and sort the donated clothing, shoes, toys, books, and school supplies, and fill orders from social service agencies for individual KidPacks – a week’s worth of everyday essentials for a child. Cradles to Crayons will surpass the 100,000 milestone in children served since its formation here five years ago. For additional information, please visit www.cradlestocrayons.org.

SOURCE United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey

Source: PR Newswire