The Long Island Coalition for the Homeless has an annual summer mission: Help children living in shelters be prepared and excited to go back to school in September.
The nonprofit organization, which provides support services to the region’s homeless population, holds its Supply Our Students (SOS) drive each year, collecting new clothes, shoes, supplies, and backpacks for homeless youth. It culminates in a fun-filled day of activities, dubbed Backpack Pirates, emulating a day at camp for kids receiving the donations.
“Many of them don’t have a whole lot of things they did over the summer,” says Greta Guarton, executive director of LICH. “This gives them a story they can be excited about that they can share with their classmates when they return to school.”
LICH started running the pirate-themed event about 12 years ago. A local volunteer, Ken Mangan, launched it and partnered with the organization for some time before the coalition took it over with the aim of bringing summer joy to the lives of children living in homeless shelters.
For one day at the end of August, about 150 to 200 kids ages 5 to 13 will participate in what the organization calls “an amazing one-day summer camp experience,” which will include sports tournaments, improv and theatrical performances, arts and crafts, face painting, and more. Children will also choose their own back-to-school outfit and receive brand-new backpacks full of school supplies, as well as camp T-shirts.
“They love it,” Guarton says. “It gets them excited; it gives them a reason to want to go to school that first day again.
“A lot of kids in shelters don’t like going to school because they are wearing hand-me-downs and don’t want to be picked on and don’t have the ‘summer stories.’ They don’t get to do the things that other kids do,” she adds. “Being encouraged and looking forward to school helps them to succeed. It’s important for every child, but especially important for kids that don’t have that stability in their living situation.”
Donations will be accepted at the LICH office at 600 Albany Ave., Amityville, through Aug. 18.