By Kathy L. Collins

On Saturday, August 9, the community came together at the Annual Backpack Event, hosted by the YMCA and the Emergency Care Help Organization (ECHO), to make sure that children in need have new backpacks and age appropriate school supplies for the start of the new school year.1,400 children were registered for the event. The Backpack Event was held at the Tampa YMCA’s Camp Cristina in Riverview.

Many businesses and organizations, including USAmeri Bank, Citi Group, HSBC and the Valrico/FishHawk Chamber of Commerce, worked hard to collect new backpacks and age appropriate school supplies. In addition, many businesses and organizations provided volunteers to work at the event.

Cathy Del Castillo, a Unit Manager with HSBC, is the President of CAPS, HSBC’s Community Awareness Program. Del Castillo spearheaded efforts to collect over 350 backpacks plus supplies.

“The event is an incredible way to assist the community with their back to school needs,” Del Castillo said. “HSBC is committed to helping and supporting the community.”

Olga Bolet with Citi Group is the Ambassador for ECHO. Bolet coordinates service projects such as Global Community Day (this year volunteers worked to repair fences at ECHO) and the Backpack Event.

“For me personally, this is a great way to give back,” Bolet said. “A lot of my co-workers believe that this is an opportunity to partner with organizations such as ECHO to give back to the community.”  Citi Group has been involved in the Backpack Event for over five years.

In addition to backpacks and school supplies, children were able to get free vision screenings thanks to Florida Prevent Blindness and free dental screenings thanks to Suncoast Community Health Centers’ Mobile Dental Bus. Seeds of Hope, a food bank located in Lithia, distributed bags of back-to-school food to over 500 families.

Children who attended the event were also able to have some fun making special projects donated by Home Depot, taste delicious frappes donated by McDonald’s (Caspers Company) and learn about programming offered by the YMCA.

For more information on ECHO, visit For more information on Tampa area YMCAs, visit

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