Neal Communities, Southwest Florida’s premier, private homebuilder, sponsored the 23rd Annual BIG Backpack Event in Fort Myers for the seventh consecutive year.
The BIG Backpack Event, hosted by the Multicultural Centre of Southwest Florida, provides students with backpacks and school supplies donated by local community members, organizations and sponsors. This year’s event, held on Sunday, July 24 at Fort Myers Skatium Rink, provided nearly 3,000 students in Lee, Collier and Charlotte counties with school supplies. Nearly 1,000 more students were assisted this year than in prior years.
According to organizers, the line of vehicles stretched more than a mile from the parking lot to U.S. 41. Typically, the event provides 2,000 students with supplies, but this year’s event surpassed expectations. Organizers said they had to start an hour early to accommodate the additional students.
As the primary sponsor, Neal Communities and its trade partners raised nearly $25,000 to assist with the event – the highest amount raised for this event by the home builder and its partners to date. Other sponsors, including corporate and individual donors, also helped to make the event possible.
“We are so appreciative of the generosity of Neal Communities, their staff and vendors over the years,” said Leonardo Garcia, founder of the Multicultural Centre of Southwest Florida and the Annual BIG Backpack Event. “Their support makes it possible to provide students with new backpacks and school supplies each year.”
Local vendors also were on site to provide additional benefits to families. One sponsor provided 1,000 bags of groceries, and a local health department provided vaccines to incoming seventh graders.
An estimated 150 volunteers, including Neal Communities employees, helped make the event possible. Several people volunteered on Saturday, July 23rd to pack the backpacks and prepare other supplies to distribute at the event.
“The volunteer network, led by the Multicultural Centre of Southwest Florida, is strong,” said Tim Oak, Southwest Florida Regional President of Neal Communities. Some volunteers have returned to help every year throughout the event’s 23-year-history, he said.
“We are very proud to be a part of the BIG Backpack Event,” Oak said. “Those at Neal Communities and our trade partners are happy to help the children and families of Southwest Florida. We look forward to this event every year.”