Preparing students for the school year, Dream Center Peoria hosts annual “Backpack Peoria” event

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — With school just around the corner, local organizations worked to ensure students are prepared for the first day.

“Backpack Peoria” has been going on for 21 years, according to Dream Center Peoria’s Executive Director, Alex King.

“Today we have two and a half thousand backpacks loaded with school supplies ready to be given away,” King said Saturday morning.

He said the first 750 students to show up also got a $10 gift card to Sam Harris for uniforms.

Along with the traditional backpack giveaway, located at Dream Center Peoria, families could utilize a mobile hair salon, COVID-19 vaccine clinic, and second-hand uniform “store.” Dental and medical exams were also available, and staff were giving away food.

“Even the community gets involved,” King said. “We have to raise 35 thousand dollars to pull it off every year. But people step up, individuals step up, corporations step up so that we can really make it happen.”

Peoria Public Schools (PPS) collaborates with Dream Center Peoria for the event, but it is not limited to PPS students.

“All the resources are like a one-stop thing for us before school. So it really kind of helps me out, being a mother of three,” said Peoria Public Schools parent, Ashley Kakazu.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a drive-through option was available for the food and backpack giveaway.

“We want to make sure that any child that’s going into school is ready on the first day of school,” King said. “We want to take all those barriers away.”

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