BY SUSANA MARTINEZ
Imperial Valley’s “Starts With Arts Foundation” held a backpack giveaway event this last Friday, giving away 500 free backpacks to kids who are in K12 to prepare them for the upcoming school year. The backpack giveaway garnered a massive crowd, eager to get their hands on coveted school supplies. The gymnasium at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Sports Pavilion was alive with excitement as families patiently waited in line for the giveaway to begin.
As soon as 1 p.m. rolled around, the backpacks began to make their way into the hands of grateful students. Kids got their pick of colorful backpacks and wasted no time in showing off their treasures to their families, the joy radiating from their faces.
Volunteers quickly filled their bags with free school supplies that the kids will need once the school year begins in full swing. These ranged from notebooks and pencils, to the more “artsy” goods like crayons and markers. Everyone, from the children receiving Finding Dory themed backpacks to the handful of volunteers that kept the event running smoothly, had unwavering smiles on their faces that added to the joyous buzz in the atmosphere.
Starts With Arts” President David Varela seemed the most satisfied with the massive turnout. A Valley native himself, Varela started his non-profit foundation back in 2012 in order to spread awareness of arts in education. Throughout his education he noticed a lack of support within the arts programs. After graduating from art school and becoming a senior designer for an advertising agency Sixteenfifty, Varela took it upon himself to give back to the community that has helped him in his youth.
Varela began the back pack giveaways four years ago by himself. The first year that the giveaway was done through the foundation was in 2016. That year roughly 200 backpacks were given away, and the number appears to be rising. The giveaway is made possible by crowdfunding and donations from Sixteenfifty, which has been contributing their support since the beginning. The volunteers that help during the event are often kids who have previously benefited events by “Starts With Arts”.
When asked why he has chosen to do these backpack giveaways, Varela said it was meant to give kids an equal opportunity in school. By starting out with all the supplies that they need, they will be readily prepared to tackle any challenges the school year will bring. Varela hopes that the foundation will be able to raise awareness about the arts programs through these events, and he encourages local businesses to do the same. For now many, Valley kids are going to start the school year off on the right foot.