By Kathy L. Collins

On Saturday, August 10, the community came together to help distribute backpacks and school supplies to area children. 1,624 children were registered for the event. The Backpack Outreach Event was held at the Tampa YMCA’s Camp Cristina in Riverview. The event was a cooperative effort involving Brandon area YMCA’s, ECHO of Brandon, area churches and many other community businesses and groups.

Sponsors of the event included businesses and organizations such as HSBC, Bank of America and Citicorp who collected backpacks and school supplies and provided an army of volunteers, The Tampa Bay Rays donated backpacks, FANG (FishHawk Area Networking Group)  helped collect supplies at its Annual Back To School Festival and donated $1,000 to Campo YMCA to purchase backpacks.

Other sponsors who were instrumental in putting the event together and making it happen, included Love First Christian Center, Dr. Nitash Patel, South Brandon Worship Center and  South Brandon Worship Center Y Campus.

Suncoast Schools Federal Credit Union Foundation gave ECHO a generous grant which allowed ECHO to donate backpacks to the event as well as provide backpacks, school supplies and shoe vouchers to clients during the month of August. Volunteers from Suncoast Schools Federal Credit Union also came to the Backpack Outreach Event and gave their time to help area children get the supplies they need to succeed in school.

Sharmaine Burr, ECHO’s Client Center Supervisor said, “When children are provided with age-appropriate tools they tend to be more successful in school.” Burr added, “ECHO could not serve the number of children that need help in the area without all of the partnerships we have with businesses and organizations including the Y.”

Lalita Llerena, Communications Director for the Tampa YMCA said, “The Backpack Outreach Event is one of the ways the Tampa Y is working to close the achievement gap between low income and middle to upper income students. It’s important for us to reach outside our Y walls and provide educational resources and community support to those who need it the most.”

For more information on ECHO, please visit For more information on Tampa area YMCA’s, please visit


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