Two 13-year-old girls from Glencoe spent their first four weeks of summer vacation doing math calculations and the next two weeks spending six hours a day indoors.
But it was worth it — for them and at least 250 other Chicagoland students.
At the beginning of June, Thi Chaplin and Lilah Brady, students at Glencoe’s Central School, began to raise money to purchase school supplies for Chicagoland children who need them.
After four weeks of fundraising, the pair had $6,500 — $500 above their goal — and began to pack 250 backpacks full of supplies.
The supplies and backpacks came from Bags in Bulk, a wholesaler that works to make school supplies widely accessible. Each backpack contained a binder, folders, tab dividers, filler paper, notebooks, a pencil pouch with writing materials, erasers, glue sticks, scissors, a pencil sharpener, index cards, calculator, Post-it Notes and a stress ball.
The girls said that they pursued this project so 250 children could feel confident about starting the new school year. They also said they wanted to provide relief to these children’s families.
“Hopefully it helps their parents use the money they would’ve on school supplies for other important things,” Chaplin said.
After two weeks of meticulous packing, the backpacks were ready. The girls chose to donate the packs to Cradles to Crayons, a charity organization that provides children with the essentials they need for everyday life, because Chaplin’s family had volunteered with the group.
Jaron Newton, Cradles to Crayons senior director of operations, and Andrew Ramirez, a customer service representative, picked up the backpacks on Monday, July 17, in Glencoe as a part of the organization’s pilot door-to-door pick-up program in the North Shore.
Newton said that Chicago Public Schools had 8,000 additional signups this year due to the influx of children from the migrant community who recently immigrated to Chicago. He said efforts like those of Chaplin and Brady are the first piece to supporting those children.
Cradles to Crayons took several extra boxes of supplies that did not fit in the backpacks, in case a child needed more of any supply.
Lan Chaplin, Thi’s mom, said she was not involved in the project but was proud of both of them.
“They were very careful and thoughtful about everything. Every time I heard them packaging they were like ‘be careful!’” Lan said.
The girls said the project took a lot of time and planning. They made a budget using prices on the Bags in Bulk website before they even began fundraising.
They said although it seemed daunting when they laid out 250 empty backpacks, the process was rewarding.
“All of it was really fun. It took a lot of patience,” Brady said. “Looking at all of it done was very accomplishing.”
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Rosie Newmark is a 2023 Record intern and an incoming senior studying journalism and history at Northwestern University. Rosie has written for multiple campus publications in addition to the Hyde Park Herald and American Libraries Magazine.