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Anne Arundel County students give backpacks to those in need

School of the Incarnation to Hand Out 800-1,000 Backpack

GAMBRILLS, Md. —It's become a tradition at one Anne Arundel County school, filling backpacks with love.

On Thursday, students helped give back to those in need.

It has become a Christmas tradition at the School of the Incarnation in Gambrills: filling backpacks for those in need with cold weather essentials including hats, gloves, hoodies, scarves and thermals.

For the last eight years, students -- preschool to eighth-graders -- have raised their own money for the Giving Back Program, with parents doubling their pledges to fill the packs.

"Every year, we get about $22,000 -- between $22,000 and $25,000 -- so we sponsor each year about 800 to 1,000 backpacks," fourth-grade teacher Sandi Dlugonski said.

The backpacks will go to over two dozen shelters in Washington, D.C., Anne Arundel County and Baltimore City.

"In the evening, we will go to east Baltimore and distribute them directly to about 300 or 400 individuals on the streets," Giving Back volunteer Bob Kight said.

"You just see a huge smile going on their face and everything. It feels nice to give back," eight-grade student Tommy Halligan said.

"I love going out to shelters to just seeing all the people, how happy they are, even to get a backpack and clothes. It's amazing," seventh-grade student Caitlin Koehler said.

While the backpacks are filled with items that will warm the recipient's body, they are also filled with something inside that will warm their hearts – handmade cards from the children, and for some who will receive them, it will be the only card they get this holiday season.

Those too young to read drew pictures, but others, like first-grader Tyler Portch, expressed the true spirit of Christmas.

"May you feel the love of Jesus in your heart," Portch said.

"Most of our children when you ask them what Christmas is, the standard answer for a lot of kids are Santa Claus and Christmas morning, and I think most of our kids, the first thing they would say is giving back," Dlugonski said.

Jeanette Sudano