The Backpack Lady’s delivery arrived just in time for the first day back at .
“Are you heaven sent?” asked Janine Munns, family and community liaison.
Rob Ditro, his son, Brendan Ditro, 13, and Drew Mesick, 12, just carried 20 backpacks inside the cafeteria. Munns playfully complimented the boys on their pink backpacks.
The boys carried several pink, purple and white backpacks — girls' colors.
Munns said the school gives away at least 50 packs a year. She’s often on the phone, asking businesses for donations to replace kids’ broken, missing, flimsy or tattered backpacks. At a time when the numbers of students on free or reduced lunch are rising, Munns said, the school is left finding ways to get the kids what they need.
“The impact that those backpacks will have on children’s lives is something that you just can’t measure,” Monika Wolcott, principal, said.
Ditro began The Backpack Lady Project to after she passed away July 10. She had anonymously given two backpacks to neighboring for years. No one knew about it, not even her family. Now Ditro's mission is a healing one. He hopes to pay the tumultuous years of his mother’s illness forward by supplying packs to as many schools that will answer his phone calls.
“I didn’t know any of the background,” Wolcott said.
Wolcott thanked Ditro, and then, explained how the donated packs would benefit a school still healing from the loss of one of its students.
Kassidie Rae McMillin would be entering fifth grade at San Jose today (Aug. 22).
She died after her on May 12, then turned the gun on herself.
A manager at a Palm Harbor Home Depot was so touched by the tragedy, Wolcott said, that he told her “I just had to do something.”
He surprised the staff when they arrived at school after a long Memorial Day weekend, only about two weeks after losing Kassidie. He had cleared an overgrown patch of land, installed a stone path and a memory fountain, and decorated the fence with pink and purple butterflies.
Pink, purple and white, like the backpacks, they're Kassidie’s .
“[The garden] and the backpacks are what really keeps your hope alive for humanity in this world,” Wolcott said.
Outside the school's main entrance, Kassidie's pink, purple and white flowers are in bloom.