Backpack Peoria prepares kids for the school year

By Alyssa Donovan

July 29, 2013 Updated Jul 29, 2013 at 10:46 AM CDT

PEORIA, Ill.-- The school year is quickly approaching but area families say they need some help getting prepared.

On Saturday, thousands of Peoria-area kids received new gear to kick off the school year.

Families woke up early on Saturday with school on their minds.

Thousands lined the block around the Dream Center for the annual Backpack Peoria giveaway where 3,000 back packs filled with school supplies were handed out.

Nkruman Morgan brought his two boys to get backpacks and a free dental check-up.

"I think it's totally awesome, the help the assistance it takes the burdens off the families knowing that they have a great start on their school supplies," said Morgan.

The event started more than 10 years ago, when community members expressed the need to better prepare their kids for the school year.

Executive Director of the Dream Center, Andy King said over the years the event has added non-profit booths.

"We want to try to connect families that may not be able to get around town and see what's in town so we get everyone in one place," said King. "So many different organizations obviously the District 150 schools are represented here and we have the Midwest Food Bank and obviously Dream Center has all their programs here."

In order to receive a back pack, families had to go to at least five of the non-profit tables.

King said that gives attendees a bit of incentive to learn how they can get involved in the community.

A handful of businesses and organizations returned the favor, pitching in to provide the thousands of book bags.

"We're working with District 150 and around 80 percent of the kids are on the free lunch program. So right there, there is a crowd that really needs some help. So there's no real qualification. If people are going to line up at 4:30 in the morning, which they have, to come to this than that's really their qualification," said King.

This is the 12th year the Dream Center has put on Backpack Peoria, preparing more students each year to bring their A game.

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