Ky. voices: Lexington rallies with school backpacks for families in need

This Saturday more than 100 volunteers from the YMCA and other community organizations will distribute 8,000 backpacks filled with school supplies to deserving kids as part of the YMCA's Back to School Rallies.

This is a community-wide effort that is important for many reasons.

First, by giving low income students school supplies for the year, we are giving them the basic tools to succeed in school. Nearly 31 million kids live in low-income families in the United States. Two out of five children live in families that struggle to provide the basics. Research shows that kids who do not have the basics, such as school supplies, not only struggle in school but struggle to stay in school.

Imagine how frustrating it would be to try to do your homework without the paper, pencils and other basics needed to complete the assignment. As a parent, it would be equally frustrating trying to find the money to buy these supplies. For some families, these are very real and very hard choices: School supplies or paying bills?

Second, while the Back To School Rallies are led by the Y, they have become community-wide projects. More than 18 local organizations, including churches and community centers, have become an integral part of getting these backpacks and supplies to those who need them most. They help with the coordination, promotion and distribution of supplies. Without them, this project would be nearly impossible to pull together.

I moved to Lexington eight months ago. I've worked for YMCAs all over the United States in cities big and small, which gives me some perspective on what makes for a great community. One of those hallmarks is the emphasis a town or city places on education. I can tell you, Lexington is a wonderful place to live and raise a family. And, I believe, with our Back To School Rallies, we're telling our kids that education is important, that we want you to succeed and that as a community we will help you find that success.

We'd like to acknowledge some of the entities that have helped make our Back To School Rallies possible. Kits for Kidz is the program's presenting sponsor and has been integral in securing the school supplies while Kentucky Utilities has once again generously provided the backpacks. I'd also like to acknowledge Superintendent Tom Shelton and the staff of the Fayette County Public Schools. Shelton's commitment to providing a quality education for the kids of Fayette County is evident in everything he does and we're fortunate to have such a strong educational leader for this community.

If you or someone you know would benefit from receiving a backpack at one of our Back To School rallies, visit www.ymcaofcentralky.org for locations and times.