Lucia Hoerr, 17, of Charlottesville, Va., a junior at St. Anne's-Belfield School, makes it easier for children in need to start the school year off right by giving them new backpacks filled with school supplies. Even as a very young girl, Lucia helped people in need by donating a portion of her allowance to local charities. She wanted to do more, but most volunteer organizations said she wasn’t old enough. Then one day seven years ago, when she was shopping for school supplies with her mother, “she told me to be grateful because many kids in our community started each school year without a backpack or school supplies because their family couldn’t afford them,” said Lucia. “The idea of a peer going into the first day of school unprepared baffled me, and I knew I needed to help.”
She called a local Boys & Girls Club to see if the kids there needed backpacks and school supplies. The director said he could use 58 backpacks, so Lucia enlisted the help of family and friends and began working to meet that request. Since that first year, Lucia has invested hundreds of hours in what is now a nonprofit organization called “Backpack Buddies.” She has held fundraisers to buy supplies, organized school collection drives, and promoted her efforts through fliers, a website, social media and interviews with the press. Each summer, about 30 volunteers attend a “celebration” to help Lucia pack her backpacks and deliver them. So far, Lucia’s project has provided almost 1,500 supply-filled backpacks for kids whose families cannot afford the financial burden of buying school supplies.