By Madeline Gardner
Suitcases are often an overlooked element in life, despite being tools used to store essentials during a few occasions of moving and travel. But for the 23,000 teens transitioning out from the U.S. foster care system annually, luggage is a luxury that many do not have access to. Moving forward into the uncertainty of adulthood without much support, these kids typically resort to using garbage bags as a means of storing their possessions.
Intending to help teens aging out from the nation’s foster care system now through Christmas, the Knighten Project will be working to provide these young adults with luggage for the next stage of their lives. Its Packing with Purpose Suitcase Donation Drive encourages members of the Tampa Bay community to donate either suitcases or materials to be stored within the brand-new luggage collected by Thursday, December 15.
“The foster teen population is an invisible population. You could be walking right by them in the mall, in the grocery store and you don’t have any idea that this person is homeless. You don’t have any idea that this person doesn’t have loving parents or family at home. You just see someone walking by you,” said Bernetta Knighten, founder of the Knighten Project. “And if I can help them in any way, we want to do that — to let them know we see them.”
Before founding this nonprofit, Knighten sought a way to issue support for these teens after recognizing that many face homelessness, drug or alcohol abuse and unemployment upon their transition out of the foster care system. Rather than let these circumstances become an inevitable reality for them, the Knighten Project coordinates donations and fundraisers such as this one to instill faith that a fresh start for these young adults is indeed achievable.
Those wishing to donate to this particular campaign can visit the Amazon Wish List and Walmart Donation Registry links (which are constantly updating) on the Packing with Purpose Donation Drive page on the Knighten Project website, where materials are listed and can be ordered and sent to the organization. Donation examples include deodorant, blankets, soap, toothbrushes and more.
Individuals donating can also choose to sponsor a suitcase by selecting one of the three options available for purchase. The Suitcase package is $40 and provides a brand-new suitcase to a teen in need; the Suitcase Plus package is $100 and includes sheets, a comforter and a hygiene kit in addition to a new suitcase; and the Suitcase Deluxe package is $250 and features a new suitcase fully packed with essentials.
For more information on the Knighten Project and more ways to support this fundraiser and others like it, please visit https://theknightenproject.org/.