BY JAMES FARRELL
Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing) announced his fourth annual back-to-school backpack giveaway on Tuesday.
The giveaway, which provides free backpacks to students returning to school, is co-sponsored by the 109th Precinct’s Community Council and Healthfirst Insurance, who provided the backpacks. Like last year’s event, the giveaway is meant to encourage students to stop bullying in their schools. It will begin this Friday, August 26, at noon at the 109th precinct at 37-05 Union Street.
“Last year, we focused on making sure that when the students and families are coming in to take this gift, they are taking a pledge to go back and continue the antibullying campaign,” said Kim, adding that this year will have the same focus.
Kim referenced the recent suicide of 13-year-old Daniel Fitzpatrick of Staten Island, who was severely bullied at the Holy Angels Catholic Academy in Brooklyn. Daniel left behind a letter expressing frustrations with school officials for not doing enough to fix his situation.
“It was a touching and awakening moment that bullying is still alive in our schools,” Kim said. “We want to make sure that our families, our teachers and mostly our students step forward and be leaders.”
Standing alongside Kim were William Wang and Hannah Gao from Healthfirst, Vana Partridge of the 109th Precinct’s Community Council, and Detective Kevin O’Donnell and Officer Nancy Vuong of the 109th Precinct.
“Assemblyman Kim has been doing this each year and I think it’s a great gesture for the children of our community who are heading back to school, and it stresses the importance and value of education,” Partridge said. “It also allows us to discuss important topics such as bullying, which simply does not have a place in our school culture.”
Wang echoed the other leaders’ praise of the event as a positive, community program.
“We continue to work together to try to make the community better, and to also help the next generation realize the importance of studying in school,” Wang said.
Kim praised the community-engagement work of the officers, who did not address the media, citing how Detective O’Donnell has dressed up as Santa Claus for past events.
“We often hear some of the negative stuff that comes up between the police and our community,” Kim said. “We hardly hear about the positive things, the developments that we see every day in our community.”
Kim also added that in past years, interest in the backpacks has been very high. He declined to say how many backpacks they had available in order to temper demand, but added that they would be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.
The leaders also insisted that families who are hoping to pick up backpacks must come to the giveaway with their children, because in past years, they have had individuals take advantage of the giveaway and grab a large number of backpacks.
By bringing their children, families will be able to work with distributors to ensure that all of each family’s children receive a bag while still leaving some behind for other families.
Reach James Farrell at (718) 357-7400 x 127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @farrellj329.