Hall County families were able to take home 1,000 backpacks and school supplies at an annual event Friday.

Grand Island Public Schools’ Families in Transition program hosted the Back to School Bash at Fonner Park. Holly Boeselager, GIPS’ Families in Transition coordinator, said the event is typically in person, with students able to get physicals, vaccinations, and dental and vision exams. Attendees also are able to collect various items and information from multiple agencies at the event.

However, due to COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s Back to School Bash was a drive-thru event where backpacks were given to families on a first-come, first-served basis.

Boeselager said backpacks were given to any student in the county. Due to COVID-19, the event was unable to serve those outside of Hall County this year.

At Friday’s event, she said, cars lined up beginning at noon to be given a backpack filled with school supplies. The elementary backpacks were filled with a notebook, a folder and a pencil pouch with pencils, crayons, glue sticks and scissors. The high school backpacks had a binder, a notebook and a free water bottle compliments of Trinity United Methodist Church.

Boeselager said volunteers asked those at the Back to School Bash how many backpacks they needed and which grade level before putting them in the trunks of the cars. The Back to School Bash had approximately 45 volunteers, including high school cheerleaders, community agencies, teachers and social workers.

“I am very thankful for them,” she said. “This event would not have been able to happen if we did not have our amazing volunteers.”

While the event officially started at 2 p.m., Boeselager said organizers started distributing backpacks earlier due to the length of the line of cars at Fonner Park.

“We started early because the line ended up going all the way to South Locust and we were running out of room for people,” she said. “We got it going early and it is going quick.”

Boeselager said the backpacks and a small number of school supplies for the Back to School Bash were collected from the Stuff the Bus event. Supplies also were purchased through monetary donations.

“We were able to get a $5,000 grant from Wells Fargo and a grant from Walmart,” she said. “Heartland United Way helped with $900 worth of stuff and the rest was purchased with funds we had available.”

Lt. Liza Ayala, director of the Grand Island Salvation Army, said her organization handed out a sack lunch of a sandwich, chips, water and fruit. The Salvation Army has an annual presence at the Back to School Bash and has participated for more than 20 years.

“For this year especially, it is important to keep things as normal as possible,” Ayala said. “This is something they (attendees) expect every year and, moving forward, is something normal. It is done differently, but is something they are used to. I think we need as much normal as we can have right now.”

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