Danville Express

Newsfront - August 17, 2007

Kids help kids by providing backpacks

Back-to-school time wraps up project for Danville girls

by Natalie O'Neill

Showing up with no backpack or pencils on the first day of class can get an underprivileged grade-schooler off on the wrong foot.

That's why Madison and Mackinsey Mascali, who are 10 and 7 years old, started Packs With Love, a volunteer organization created for kids by kids. Its purpose is to get school supplies to homeless or needy students in time for the first day of class.

"We wanted them to feel 'normal' on the first day," Madison said. "We thought they might get teased for not having a backpack."

Packs With Love, a name the Danville sisters came up with themselves, will donate more than 240 backpacks to elementary students in the Richmond public school district this week.

The girls spent much of their summer collecting used backpacks and cleaning them and earlier this week filled them with notebooks, paints, colored pencils and more.

A few months ago they started spreading the word that used backpacks and supplies were needed, using mass e-mailing and even giving a presentation over the sound system at Golden View Elementary School, urging other kids to help out.

"It really caught on," said their mother Carol Mascali.

Carol, who used to take the girls to help serve food at a homeless shelter in San Jose, gives her daughters total credit for the idea. In the spring the girls said they wanted to volunteer closer to home and Carol said it was up to them to come up with a project.

"I said, 'Sure - but you have to figure it out,'" she said.

Left to their own devices, Madison and Mackinsey decided they wanted to help other children.

"At the homeless shelter, all the kids looked really sad," Mackinsey said.

So they talked to a Richmond outreach coordinator to find out how they could aid less fortunate students.

The outreach coordinator gave them a list of what they needed and their hunt for donations began. It was Carol's job to cart them around town from "one porch to another," collecting packs they would later clean and fill with supplies. They tossed backpacks that were too worn out or had kid's names on them and hung onto the ones that were still in good shape.

"Some of them looked like they were in the attic 20 years," Mackinsey said.

"Cleaning the packs was probably the hardest part," Madison agreed.

Initially, working at the shelter helped the girls understand that not everybody lives the way they do and that people struggle, Carol said.

"It's wonderful for them - seeing beyond their own back yard," she said.

Madison echoed a similar sentiment.

"We live in a privileged area," she said.

With this year's project already a success, the creators of Packs With Love are thinking about more projects. Gathering warm clothes for next year's back-to-school project will be their next mission, Madison said.

"Kids dream big," Carol said.

To donate supplies, backpacks or funds for this year contact the Mascali family at packswithlove@yahoo.com by the end of the week. To contribute lightly worn clothes and school supplies to next year's project, use the same contact.


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