Packing it in

About 60 foster children living in Surprise received new, fully-stocked backpacks compliments of Sun Health residents and employees.

About 60 foster children living in Surprise received new, fully-stocked backpacks compliments of Sun Health residents and employees.

Nearly 400 foster kids from the Northwest Valley, ages 7 to 18, headed to school this month with new backpacks filled with school supplies, compliments of the Sun Health SHINE (Sun Health Involvement Never Ends) summer backpack drive.

The drive was done in cooperation with OCJ Kids, a Valley-based foster and adoption agency. What started last year as a SHINE drive to donate 60 stock backpacks to area foster kids took on a life of its own as Sun Health residents, volunteers and employees gave well beyond expectations. The result was 242 backpacks.

This year, the SHINE Committee set a stretch goal of 300 backpacks, and once again the community rallied for the cause. A total of 384 backpacks were distributed to local children living in foster care.

“It means the beginning of a positive school year for these kids,” said Shevaun Sullivan, project manager with OCJ Kids. “The fact that they get new backpacks and not old ones; the fact they get to go in with new supplies and not a trash bag or no supplies, means they have a better chance of success at school this year. They are already labeled, and this takes one more label away that they are in foster care.”

The Wal-Mart Super Center in Surprise worked with SHINE to order the packs and supplies in bulk. Sun Health employees volunteered over a lunch time to stuff the 384 packs. The drive culminated with a party in late July at The Colonnade for about 60 local foster children. Several employees hosted the party and provided the guests with refreshments, an art project, games and line-dancing. Each child picked out their own backpack available in seven solid colors.

Eleven-year-old Esteban (last name withheld) choose a red one, his favorite color, and he expressed appreciation for the party and the gift. “This is very nice,” the affable 6th grader said. “It shows that people care about us.”