Monday, August 10, 2009

An exception worth a rule break

This’ll ruin my tough-guy image for sure, but the heart-warming tidbit deserves to be covered. It also up-ends my longstanding rule of not reporting fundraisers or other charitable restaurant events. There are just too many. Open that door, and you could end up covering nothing else.

But this one is special, in part because of its simplicity. It could also be more of a boon to kids this fall than you might suppose. No matter how ennobling Abraham Lincoln and other legends found childhood disadvantage to be, it really sucks when your family can’t afford the snazzy new supplies that all your classmates unwrap on that first day of school. We’re not talking about a new iPhone. It’s a bummer to inherit a spiral notebook that’s an eighth of an inch thick because you had to yank out all the pages that were used by a sibling the year before. Ditto for a binder covered with a brother or sister’s doodlings, or pens that were filched from a relative’s office.

This year, of course, the economic situation will undoubtedly land more kids in that esteem-smashing plight. But some—and apparently a big sum, judging from the program’s extent—will be spared thanks to Operation Backpack. Children who qualify are provided with a backpack full of implements and supplies no different from what their more privileged age mates will be toting to class this fall. They won’t have to feel stigmatized or geekoid, regardless of their family’s financial situation.

The program appears to be a national effort affiliated with Volunteers of America and administered by parties ranging from TV stations to churches. Restaurants like McDonald’s units in the Indiana area are doing their part, either by contributing the supplies or serving as collection centers. The McD’s units there are doing both, probably like many of the other participating foodservice establishments.

Kudos to all of the participants for leveling the schoolyard for more kids this fall. And if others of you would like to participate, just do an internet search or check out the Volunteers of America website. You may be surprised at how prevalent the program has become.

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