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“I wanted to do a service project and I wanted to do something that would help other kids,” said 9-year-old Kansas City local Brooklyn Stewart. “When my mom heard that The Salvation Army was doing a school supplies drive, I wanted to help. When kids go to The Salvation Army, they sometimes don’t have anything… I just want to make sure the kids there have what they need.”

In her fourth year hosting “Brooklyn’s Backpack Drive,” Brooklyn collected 265 new backpacks filled with school supplies for less fortunate school children. The idea came to her as a kindergartener, when she donated 17 backpacks to a children’s organization.

After hearing about The Salvation Army’s need for back-to-school supplies, Brooklyn has generously hosted her Backpack Drive to benefit our organization the last three years.

This summer was the first year the St. Elizabeth Catholic School student promoted her backpack drive on Facebook. Since then, her efforts have caught attention and donations from strangers.

Brooklyn’s father, Travis Stewart, said that Brooklyn’s Backpack Drive had almost as many anonymous donors as they did donors who revealed their names.

“We get lots of, ‘I’m very proud of you, Brooklyn,’ and ‘This is a great thing you’re doing, Brooklyn,’ and ‘I’m very proud to know you, Brooklyn,’” he said. “She gets a lot of community and friend support from classmates, classmates’ parents and friends of her mom and dad, and others through the social web. I was looking at the GoFundMe page and there’s a lot of anonymous donors out there. They sometimes don’t want to take the glory for it, they just wanted to donate.”

“I can just only think of how many kids we’ve helped,” Brooklyn said. “I really, really like the fact that we’re doing something for the community.”

Major David Harvey, Divisional Secretary for The Salvation Army, says the need for school supplies and backpacks for school children is substantial. To date, The Salvation Army has served nearly 17,000 children in the Kansas City metro area, providing almost 14,000 meals and shelter for more than 400 children.

“Hundreds of kids right now [need backpacks and school supplies],” Harvey said. “Kids like Brooklyn understand what it’s like to go to school. She knows she needs her supplies… By getting these backpacks, we are able to help the kids go to school and feel normal. We pray they head onto college someday. She is giving them that fresh start and that chance.”

The backpacks with supplies that Brooklyn raised this year go directly to Kansas City children in need, from our Children’s Shelter and other family shelters around the metro.

“I just get an overwhelming feeling of pride being her father,” Travis said. “I’m the dad and this is 99.9% her and her mom. They put so much effort into it. Just to see that she feels so much joy doing it – it’s not like she’s begrudged to doing it and being dragged along on these things with her mom.”

Travis said Brooklyn looks forward to going shopping at Target, Wal-Mart and elsewhere to purchase the backpacks and supplies from the funds that she raises, as compared to her peers who may prefer to stay home and do other activities.

“The fact is that she enjoys it just as much (as other activities her peers are doing),” he said.

After the conclusion of this year’s backpack drive, it didn’t take long for Brooklyn to begin setting goals for 2018.

“Next year, I think we should make a goal of 310 backpacks,” she said with a grin.

“I’m very proud of her,” Travis said. “This has grown every year, and each year when we hear the goal – we’re like, ‘Oh man, this is going to be hard.’ But, she smashes it every year.”

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