Local teens gave out more than 400 backpacks filled with school supplies at a recent event at Seeds of Hope.

More than 400 local students went back to school last month with one less worry thanks to a group of local teens and generous volunteers. Students from Newsome and Bloomingdale High Schools and Randall Middle School arranged donation drives to collect backpacks and school supplies that were given to families who regularly attend the weekly Seeds of Hope food bank. The teens collected enough school supplies to fill more than 470 backpacks.

FishHawk resident and Newsome sophomore Addison Collins was one of the student leads for the backpack event.

“This project was special because I love school supplies and getting new ones before the new school year makes me happy and I wanted others to feel that joy as well,” said Collins, who collected the supplies for the 470-plus backpacks and her home. “Handing kids their new backpacks filled with supplies and seeing the look on their faces made my heart so full.”

The students collected the supplies over the summer and packed the backpacks with pens, pencils, crayons, notebooks, loose leaf paper, glue sticks, highlighters, folders and binders, erasers and more. Then, a group of students attended the weekly food bank the week before school started and handed out the backpacks filled with supplies to more than 400 children who attended the event, which had to be a drive-through due to COVID-19.

Newsome sophomore Allison Rich also acted as a student lead for the event.

“The back-to-school event was something I knew I wanted to do because no one should have to go to school without supplies or a backpack,” said Rich. “I was very touched by this project. Handing out backpacks to children of all ages and watching their faces light up when they got a Spider-Man or princess backpack is the reason I do what I do.”

Collins also felt rewarded for the hard work that went into the event.

“This project taught me that you don’t need to do much to make someone happy. Just a simple smile or giving someone a new backpack could make their day,” she said. “I also learned that you should never take for granted the things you are given.”

To learn more about Seeds of Hope and the volunteer opportunities for teens, visit www.sohopefl.org or follow the group on Facebook.

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Kate Quesada is the Multimedia Manager for the Osprey Observer Newspapers. She has been working for the paper in various positions since 2005 when she graduated with her Masters degree in mass communications. She lives in Valrico with her husband Mike and son Dylan.