Items on back-to-school lists might total above $50 for some grades.
And that can be a burden for families who might already be struggling to pay household bills and have multiple children to outfit for school.
But no student wants to be the only kid in class on the first day without a big box of fresh Crayola crayons.
So the Columbus Sunrise Rotary, in collaboration with 16 other area organizations, is asking for the community to help “Fill the Bus” with donations this weekend at the west side Walmart.
A school bus will be parked outside Walmart, 2025 Merchant Mile, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today and Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.
“It’s something that might seem small to some people, to give a box of crayons,” said Diane Doup, community outreach coordinator at the Lincoln-Central Neighborhood Family Center. “But if you’re faced with not having those items, you have a feeling of sadness. You feel different than anyone else.”
More than 2,000 students in Bartholomew Consolidated and Flatrock-Hawcreek school districts received backpacks stuffed with essentials last year, and more than 14,000 have been helped since 2006.
That’s just a fraction of the nearly 50 percent of local students who qualify for free- or reduced-price lunch.
Lyn Morgan, who is involved in the “Fill the Bus” drive through the Sunrise Rotary but also serves as president of the Centra Foundation, said the mission of the school supply assistance program is to give every child in the community an equal start.
“If they don’t really have what they need, or if they don’t have anything, they’re not going to start school with a positive attitude, and they’re not going to succeed,” she said.
Morgan is hopeful this year could be the best yet.
For the past two years, Walmart has allowed volunteers to seek donations in the store for one day.
Since this year is a three-day event, does that mean donations could triple?
“It would be great if they did,” Morgan said.
The goal is set at $36,000 to raise in cash and supplies each year, which was surpassed last year. Any donations beyond that are stored for the following school year.
Morgan said she is grateful for the support from Walmart and the community.
While many families purchase a few items to donate, others make it a mission to buy every item on the list. She remembered one man who would not settle on donating a $5 discounted backpack, insisting all children deserve the best supplies.
And the families appreciate it, Doup said.
One grandmother who is raising several of her grandchildren with limited resources told Doup how much the program helped her family. She can put her money toward tennis shoes and clothes, eliminating the additional stress of calculators and backpacks.
She also has seen the gratitude at FairOaks Mall, where the backpacks are discreetly distributed to students after being packed with supplies.
“The kids are so excited,” Doup said. “They’ll run to the middle of the hallway and tear out their new backpacks and start looking through them right there.”