The Backpack Lady Makes Special Delivery
The Backpack Lady Project delivered 10 backpacks to Skycrest Elementary School in Clearwater on Tuesday. The school serves a large population of low-income students, the principal says.
Rob Ditro was nervous before walking into Skycrest Elementary School with 10 new backpacks on Tuesday.
Even though he's told his story dozens of times, he's always afraid he won't be able to get through it without getting emotional.
He picked up a pink Hello Kitty backpack loaded with school supplies, unzipped it, showed off some of the contents and started telling his story.
Ditro, of Dunedin, is in his second year of The Backpack Lady Project, a non-profit he began as a way to preserve his late mother's legacy. He found after her passing that his mother anonymously delivered two backpacks every year to a Dunedin school for more than a decade.
The Project solicits community donations every year around back-to-school shopping time and Ditro delivers them to Dunedin and Clearwater area schools in need.
Principal Angelean Bing said Skycrest serves a high population of low-income children. Out of the approximate 732 students, Bing said, roughly 89 percent qualify for free and reduced lunch.
"A lot of times kids come without the basic things that they need," she said.
"It's probably worth — with the supplies in it — close to $100," Assistant Principal Lisa Brown said motioning to the latest pile of donations from The Backpack Lady.
Ditro said he's found that teachers spend a minimum of $300 a year out of their own pocket, and most schools need at least 20 to 30 backpacks a year.
Last year, he donated 120 backpacks to six schools.
Ditro said as long as he's able to donate two backpacks a year, he's succeeded. Any others he's able to deliver is a bonus.
"They'll be fighting over that Hello Kitty backpack," Ditro joked.
Want to Help?
Here are three ways to contribute:
1. The Dunedin Public Library is accepting new backpacks at the Youth Services Desk through Sept. 1.
2. The Dunedin Blue Jays are hosting The Backpack Lady Project Night at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium on Sept. 5, according to Ditro. Fans who bring a new backpack donation get into the game free.
3. The Backpack Lady Project accepts new backpacks, school supplies or checks made payable to The Backpack Lady Project. Mail to 501 S. Paula Drive, Dunedin, FL, 34698.