When 8th grader Ben Blizard heard about the annual Operation Backpack drive at St. John’s Prep in Danvers, MA, his older brother Sam’s school, he decided to take on the challenge by himself. Relying both on his social media connections and the kindness of his neighbors in Ipswich, Ben collected 90 backpacks, 33 of them within a 24-hour period.
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STATE: Ben, as an 8th grader, you’re not yet a student at St. John’s Prep. What moved you to collect these supplies on your own and why has this become so important to you?
Ben: “I was reading the St. John’s Prep “Parent’s Weekly” newsletter and saw that their Campus Ministry Department was organizing an “Operation Backpack” for the kids at the Mathers School in Dorchester where new (or gently used) backpacks needed to be collected and donated. I asked my brother Sam (Sophomore class of 2017 at St. John’s) if I could make flyers and use my social media contacts like Instagram, to help collect backpacks for the drive. He said that we should shoot for the 80 backpack goal and see if we could bring in 100% of the total. In less than a week, we actually collected 90. People were so generous that they actually went out and bought new back packs to donate - or that some families even filled them with new school supplies. It was great to see Mr. Molloy’s reaction (Head of SJP Campus Ministry) when we dropped off all of the garbage bags full of backpacks. I hope something as small as a new backpack will help the kids at the Mathers School get off to a great start this school year.”
STATE: Sam, how did you and your younger brother collect supplies for Operation Backpack, and what did you find to be the biggest challenge of it all?
Sam: “My brother Ben will be applying to St. John’s Prep this fall so he has been pretty in tune to the things going on at Campus since I joined as a freshman last year. Once he told me that he wanted to help, I thought it would be fun to make the program’s 80 back pack goal our personal target. When we both got home from school, we ended up running door-to-door asking friends and neighbors if they had extra back packs or “last year’s models” stuffed in a closet somewhere. In just 24 hours, we collected 33 backpacks so we knew we were on to something. The biggest challenge we had was finding a place to store all of them at our house. You’ll see that we took over my parent’s porch so that we could sort them by newest to oldest. It was fun helping the kids at the Mathers School and we hope that they know we have their “backs(-pack)” up at St. John’s.”