By Kathy L. Collins

When students start the school year with age appropriate school supplies and a new backpack, they tend to be self-assured and do better in school. While school supplies are a basic necessity, when a family is struggling financially this need may be low on the list or not get met at all. For those families and students, the Tampa YMCA and Emergency Care Help Organization (ECHO) of Brandon help with their annual Backpack Outreach event.

This year’s event will be held at Tampa YMCA’s Camp Cristina on Saturday, August 9 from 9 a.m.-12 Noon.

Families in need can register during the month of July at ECHO located at 507 N. Parsons Ave. in Brandon. Families will be given an appointment time to go to Camp Cristina to receive a backpack and school supplies. In addition, several vendors will be at the event and will include free haircuts, vision screening and dental screening.

Lalita Llerena, Communications Director for the Tampa Y said, “The Tampa Y is honored to partner with ECHO again this year to co-host the YMCA Backpack Outreach event. We’re hoping to provide 1,500 students with backpacks filled with school supplies. Thanks to ECHO and our other community partners, the Tampa Y is able to provide more children the opportunity to start school with the resources to be successful. School readiness and success, as well as enthusiasm for learning, are key focuses of the Tampa Y’s youth development work and our school and community partnerships.”

Stacey Efaw, Executive Director of ECHO said, “This is such a great opportunity for all of us to help children in need of school supplies. Over half of the clients we serve at ECHO are children. We are committed to helping children in need so that they can be successful in school and ultimately become successful members of our community.”

In order to help 1,500 students, organizers need the help of the community. School supplies and backpacks can be donated at any area Brandon YMCA or ECHO. Local businesses and churches are also on board to help with the collection of school supplies. Volunteer are also needed for the event. For more information on donations and volunteering, contact Kavita Marballi at or 684-1371.

For more information on registering for the event, contact Sharmaine Burr at ECHO at 685-0935.

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