United Way of Southwest Michigan gives away 700 backpacks to kids preparing for school

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Back to school time in Michigan doesn't happen until after Labor Day but in Cass County this weekend preps were under way.

The United Way of Southwest Michigan held its annual school supply spectacular Backpack Giveaway, giving away free backpacks and school supplies to all who showed up.

Long lines and excited kids as families lined up outside the Lewis Cass Intermediate School District in Cassopolis.

Kids eager to pick out their new school supplies.

"That’s the one thing we look forward to every summer. It’s backpacks," said Juana Valentine, mother of seven.

Valentine and has been coming to the school supply spectacular for the past seven years.

She said this event helped her family while they were going through tough times.

Those time are now over but the family continues coming out.

"Ever sinceit’s just been a family-oriented activity that we do and we always look forward to it," said Valentine.

Valentine and her kids are now volunteers assisting all of the other people who help make this event possible.

"It’s really a great way for United Way and our volunteers and our donors to really give back to the community and see kids ready to start school and ready to learn ," said Anna Murphy, CEO of United Way Southwest Michigan.

This year the United Way of Southwest Michigan gave away over 700 backpacks.

In five of those backpacks was a lucky surprise.

"We also have a little special thing in our backpacks this year. We have a golden ticket. Like the Willy Wonka Golden Ticket. So if they get the golden ticketthey win an extra gift bag of stuff that will help them with school," said Murphy.

Things like a $50 dollar gift card and a free haircut.

Murphy said being able to help families in need is what makes this event so important.

"I love seeing seeing their response. It makes my day and it makes the reason why I do the work I do."

Today was not the only day to get a backpack and school supplies.

A limited number of items will also be available this coming Wednesday at the Marcellus Methodist Church.

It will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and is open to anyone.

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