GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) – It felt like Christmas in July on the last day of the Gulfport Police Athletic League's Summer Camp Thursday morning. On the table sat dozens of donated book bags. Forty-four children waited anxiously for their names to be called.
"We thought what a tremendous opportunity to get the community involved. So we came up with the school buses," said Alfred Sexton, PAL Board Vice President. "It's sort of like adopt-an-angel, where people could adopt a child and ensure that that child has the supplies to go back to school."
Within two weeks, 130 book bags were collected and each one came loaded with school supplies.
"The community came up with about $8,000 to send the children back to school and to make sure you have what you need," Sexton told the crowd.
To reward the children for completing the PAL program, each child got to take home a packed book bag. They were all smiles as they unzipped their bags to see what was inside.
"Good, because it's got too much stuff in it: books, colors, markers," said seven-year-old Chris Dyass, as he dug through his bag.
"It feels great to have a backpack like it. I love it," said 12-year-old Lee Harper.
"If you don't have the right supplies for school, then you won't be able to work and stuff," said ten-year-old Khaleia Griggs.
"I like it and I really want to go to school now," said seven-year-old Iris Gardner.
PAL leaders said their first Backpacks for Kids Campaign supports one of the program's primary goals.
"Learning, increasing those grades in school, the after-school tutoring we do here, and providing a positive place for kids to be," said Sexton.
On Friday, PAL summer campers at Ramsay Memorial United Methodist Church in Gulfport will also receive their own book bags. The goal next year is to collect 500 book bags to give away.