Saturday, October 23, 2021

Kiwanis Launches “Christmas in July” Backpack Campaign



By Maureen Chodaba 

Close your eyes and remember the days of childhood. Go back in your mind’s eye to recapture the feeling of going to school. Do you remember the challenges of learning? How about the social goals of fitting in and making friends? Did any other kids ever make fun of you? Hopefully, most of you were as fortunate as I was in having a wonderful childhood of which I am blessed with many fond memories. I was blessed to have the loving support of a nurturing family within a safe and comfortable environment.

Home sweet home. That’s what I remember the most. That’s what gave me focus. That’s what helped me set goals. That’s what lives in my heart to this day.

Did you know that there are approximately 808 children in Collier County who have been discreetly identified by their teachers and guidance counselors as being homeless? Did you know that nine of these children go to school right here on Marco Island? For these children, their school days are not always pleasant. Imagine how difficult it is to learn when you don’t have the proper school supplies. Think of how hard it is to pay attention in class when you are self-conscious of the fact that you have been unable to bathe. Feel, if you will, the pangs of embarrassment when a classmate makes fun of your tattered and soiled clothing. Picture yourself as a child without a home. It is truly heartbreaking.

Kiwanis International, Florida Division 22 represents all nine of the Collier County Kiwanis Clubs in a mission to improve the world one child, and one community at a time. In 2016, the division launched the “Christmas in July” campaign, designed to give the basic necessities of clothing, shoes, backpacks, school supplies and toiletries to the homeless children so they could focus their attention on schoolwork.

In 2016, through generous donations from Kiwanis members and partner organizations, the campaign provided these supplies to 200 students. This year, Florida Division 22 has set the goal even higher. The goal of Christmas in July 2017 is to provide each of the identified 808 students with a new backpack filled with clothing, school supplies and toiletries. So far they have received commitments from J.C. Penney and local Girl Scout troops to aid in this mission.

It will take $89 per child to provide these gifts of hope to all 808 children. That is a total of $72,000. Plans include a wonderful day at the Sports Park in July when each child will be presented with their own backpack filled with underwear, jeans, shoes, school supplies, soap, and other basic necessities specifically chosen for each individual’s size and needs.

When Kiwanis Club of Marco Island President Dr. Kathleen Reynolds and Kiwanis member Dennis Pidherny spoke about this project at a recent meeting, something magical happened. Immediately, eleven Kiwanis members raised their hands, each saying they would like to sponsor one child’s backpack. Knowing the generous spirit of Marco Islanders in general, we suspect that there may be many others in the community who would like to take part in this mission as well.

There are so many ways to help. Your tax deductible donation of $89 can “sponsor an angel” with a backpack, clothing, shoes, school supplies and toiletries. Other sponsorships include the $10,000 Santa Claus Sponsorship, $7,500 Mrs. Claus Sponsorship, $5,000 Rudolph Sponsorship, $2,500 Frosty the Snowman Sponsorship, $1,000 Santa’s Helper Sponsorship, and $500 Gingerbread Man Sponsorship.

Donations in any amount are welcomed and greatly appreciated. Checks made payable to the Kiwanis Club of Marco Island may be mailed to the Kiwanis Club of Marco Island, P.O. Box 2041, Marco Island, FL, 34146.

For more information, please contact Dr. Kathleen Reynolds at or 239-394-0459. Better yet, come learn more about Kiwanis by stopping by one of our meetings at 7 AM Thursday mornings at Stonewalls, 551 South Collier Blvd., Marco Island. Thank you for supporting and caring about the children of Collier County. They are our future! 

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