Back-to-school backpack giveaway draws hundreds

SAN JOSE, Calif.

A 10 a.m. the gates were opened and families came flooding into Sacred Heart Community Service Center.

Among the rush was 10-year-old Riquelme Cortez. He was in line with his family way before sunrise. He said school starts next week so he's excited to get his pick of the backpacks and supplies.

This is the tenth year Sacred Heart Service has organized this giveaway, and it's been growing every year since they started.

"Ten years ago we did 150 backpacks, so obviously (it's grown) quite a bit since that time," said Sacred Heart Service's Jay Pecot.

Everyone at the giveaway pre-registered about a month ago. That's when organizers realized they have hundreds more students in need now compared to last year.

Demand is 25 percent more than last year, which was surprising, said Pecot. "We knew we had to grow the program a little bit."

Some 2,000 backpacks were given away last year. Nearly 2,500 are being distributed this year. Only those who pre-registered for the event a month ago are able to take part in the giveaway.

Along with the bag of their choice, each student will also get a kit of school supplies. That kit will have different bits and pieces, according to the student's age and grade level. It's an effort Sacred Heart has made to coordinate with schools.

Xavier De La Torre, superintendent of Santa Clara County Schools, said, "The partnership is I think a realization that the school district, the school system cannot do it alone, that we need the involvement of private entities."

For students like Riquelme, the giveaway means he'll start classes next week without having to worry that he's missing something.

The backpacks and school supplies were purchased through donations and other gifts from community members. Sacred Heart Service says it's also hoping to sign students up for after school programs to help after classes begin.

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