By RHEA-FRANCES TETLEY
The Dennis Labadie Memorial Backpack giveaway went off without a hitch last Saturday, Aug. 6, at the office of Crestline Real Estate in Crestline. The goal was to give Rim students the opportunity to begin the school year with new school materials and backpacks.
There were many different sizes, styles, colors and designs, some with superheroes, Baby Yodas and princesses that had been especially selected by the mother-son team of Rosemarie and Dominic Labadie, in honor of Rosemarie’s late husband, Dennis, who had owned the Alpenhorn News and started the giveaway.
The line moved quickly as volunteers from the Crestline-Lake Gregory Rotary Club and the Crestline Lions Club stuffed the school supplies they had purchased into the backpacks chosen by the students.
The only questions asked of those attending were “what grade,” so the appropriate school materials were distributed, and which school were they attending, as the giveaway was designed for those attending Rim schools. There were students from Charles Hoffman, Valley of Enchantment and Lake Arrowhead Elementary Schools as well as Mary Putnam Henck Intermediate and Rim High Schools.
Some of the parents were already aware of the supplies their teachers wanted their kids to have.
Dominic has three children: a 4-year-old, 6-year-old and a 10-hear-old. Aurora, who will be going to kindergarten, was helping the other children choose their backpacks. Dominic and his wife were instrumental in supporting the project started by his father in 2003.
“I am enjoying continuing the vision of my father, who believed in the education of our students as a way to improve the community,” Dominic said. “This is an opportunity for us, as a family, to encourage and support their education and this all helps give them a solid start by being ready when school begins on Thursday.”
The children began lining up around 8:30 a.m. with their parents for the best selection. The first children in line were VOE second-grader Maria and her brother, first-grader Santiago Hernandez, with their mother Rosa. This will be Maria’s second year at VOE, and she is very happy to get back to school and see her friends again. After they chose their backpacks and received their school supplies, she said, “Thank you,” many times to many of the volunteers. Santiago was shy, but broadly smiling.
Kaylanii Drumgoole, a fifth-grade student at CHE, chose a spacey backpack, which matched her purple blouse. She is excited to begin school, as she moved to the area this summer from Northern California and wants to meet other kids her age. “I am expecting a wonderful school year up here in the mountains. This summer has been fun, but snow will be different for me. I like it here already.”
Lots of unsolicited “Thank yous” were heard by the volunteers from the Rotary and Lions Clubs as they filled the chosen backpacks with pencils, pens, erasers, paper and notebooks, rulers and other school materials, such as crayons for the younger set and colored pencils and spiral notebooks for the older ones. Both service clubs have been supporting this backpack giveaway by donating school supplies.
Braylin Brettmann, a 12-year-old sixth-grader, has been helping at this backpack giveaway for the past two years. He was helping to direct the kids from the building where the backpacks were located to the lines where the supplies were placed. Braylin also helped set out the county pre-school Headstart program materials for the kids to choose.
The Headstart program operates at VOE school and Braylin was introducing some parents to the existence of the program. “There are still openings in the preschool programs for children aged 3 to 5,” said program coordinator Glenda Harvey, who was handing out water bottles and little zippered pockets to the kids, as well as coloring books from Smokey Bear.
Lion Kathy Ogaz was at the clothing swap end of the giveaway line. This year, there were many new items which had been donated, some still with tags and others in new bags. Also, some clothes had been donated by parents whose kids had outgrown them from last year. There were jeans, shirts, shoes and jackets sitting on tables available for any children or parent who wanted some clothes for this school year to take home with them.
“This is the best event the community does to help kids get ready for school,” Ogaz said. “I believe it helps them get started on the right foot.”
Lion Rosemarie Labadie, at whose office the event took place, said at the end, “There was a lot of community spirit here today. It’s so good for the students and it is such a nice way to remember Dennis. I hope everyone has a wonderful school year.”
Of the 400 backpacks Rosemarie and Dominic Labadie purchased, only 22 were left at the end of the event. Dominic took some backpacks to several Crestline businesses, knowing the parents were working and unable to attend the event with their children.