Backpack Lady's Generosity Inspires Patch
Rob Ditro's project puts packs on students' backs, causes ripple effect of giving.
To me, the whole spirit of giving is to expect nothing in return. "Nothing" means no accolades, no "thank yous," no monetary compensation, no pats on the back ... nada.
That was the idea behind a Patch donation to The Backpack Lady Project. The story I wrote about the project happened to be Patch's 1 millionth story nationwide, and Patch wanted to acknowledge it:
"This story is pure Patch," Brian Farnham, Patch editor-in-chief, wrote in his blog. "By that I mean it's a small, meaningful story that goes to the heart of our mission: connecting users with their communities, and with each other."
With that spirit in mind, Patch made a monetary donation to Backpack Lady founder Rob Ditro's cause. We felt that reporting it would have undermined the spirit with which it was given. However, I became consumed with a feeling of guilt as I sat to write the story about the Backpack Lady's recent drop-off at San Jose Elementary. He was able to donate 20 packs to a school that typically goes through 50 in a year, Janine Munns, San Jose family and community liaison, said. This was HUGE for San Jose.
All credit goes to Ditro. It is from his — and his mother's — heart that all the giving is made possible. But in observing the ripple effect of generosity that's resulted since, and the inevitable conclusion that there'll be more followups, I don't feel honest about reporting any further without full disclosure.
I surprised Ditro with Patch's $5,000 check to the Backpack Lady Fund on Saturday, Aug. 6.
Here is the letter I wrote to my company the following Monday. Edits were made for length and spelling errors:
I wanted to let you know that I surprised Rob Ditro with the Patch donation to The Backpack Lady Fund. It was such a moving, emotional experience. (And as I sit down to write this, I am still moved to tears, even two days after.)
I had told Rob that [...] the folks at HQ would love to have a photograph commemorating [Patch's milestone 1M article]. So he agreed to meet me at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School. [...] Rob even brought the 90 backpacks he'd collected up to that point. I helped him unload the backpacks so we could get them in the "Milestone picture." [...] Rob was curious about how he became the 1M story and I elaborated a little on [...] how it was even unexpected for me.
As Rob and his son, Jordan, went to load the backpacks into his car again, I interrupted.
"Before you load those packs back into the car," I said.
What I said after that I can't quote directly, but it was pretty close to this: I think one of the things about your story that caught Patch's attention was that, in your quest to keep your mother's legacy alive, you found a way to give back to your community, and that really cuts to the core of what Patch is about. So for that, I have something here that Patch wanted me to give to you.
I pulled the envelope with the $5,000 check from my bag and handed it to him. He held it for a moment, looking at it almost dumbfoundedly. "Is this my free toaster?" he quipped. "Should I open it?"
"Please do!" I said.
So he opened the envelope and when his eyes met the $5,000 figure, his knees buckled and jaw dropped. There were several moments of stunned silence. He just stood there shocked for a bit, showed the check to his son. They both just stood there reactionless for a moment. "Wow," he said. Then Rob looked like he was getting choked up. He turned his back toward me and began to [weep].
He oscillated between [tears] and and "Oh WOWs" for about 15 minutes. [...] As it began to set in, he started to explain how his goal was to grow into 10 schools and that this just blew his goal out of the water. He talked about how because of budget cuts so many teachers spent so much money on supplies for their classrooms ... "I only expected 10 backpacks," he said, over and over. "I take back the toaster comment," he quipped again. [...]
I thought you'd all like to hear how it went, but also, I wanted to express my immense gratitude for the opportunity to even be part of it. After surprising him with the check, I went back to my car and as I drove off, I was moved to tears. I feel so humbled to have been in the position to hand a man a $5,000 check for a noble cause that came from such a pure place in his heart. One generous act [...] set an amazing example for his son, who bore witness to his father's entire goodwill project. And it will pay forward in so many ways to children in our community. Again, I am humbled beyond words. Thank you a million times over for allowing me play a small role in the giving.
EXTREMELY proud to be a Patcher,
I am sure I speak for many children and schools when I say, thank you, Rob Ditro. May Dunedin's children forever be delighted by the generous spirit of "The Backpack Lady."