The first day of school should be filled with excitement and not the fear of standing out in a crowd. Something as simple as a backpack filled with the most basic of supplies can create a level playing field for children of all ages when starting a new school year. Unfortunately, recent downturns in the economy have made back-to-school supply shopping a difficult task for many families in Indiana and across the United States.

“So many children show up on the first day with no backpack or school supplies because their parents just don’t have the means to get them,” Mike Newbold said. “When you see the look on these kids’ faces when they get a backpack and then the gratitude they express.”

Newbold, president of Huntington Bank Indiana, was part of a press conference on Tuesday held at the Huntington bank Building in Indianapolis announcing the first phase of an annual back-to-school backpack donation.

“At Huntington we know that rising prices create budget challenges for working families, making it difficult to send children back to school fully equipped to learn,” he said. “We encourage the community to rally behind our families in need by supporting Salvation Army and other organizations that help make a difference for Indianapolis Public Schools.”

The program began as a local project at a sister bank in Ohio. Newbold said Indiana borrowed the idea, and it soon became a corporate initiative in six states. It started four years ago, when the bank donated 500 backpacks filled with supplies to children in central Indiana. This year the donation number grew to 2,000. Half of the backpacks were donated to The Salvation Army for distribution to children in its youth programs.

“It’s difficult to help those in the community without a conduit to the community, John Althardt said. “What a great day for Indianapolis Public Schools to celebrate the community spirit Indy is known for.”

Althardt, the director of community relations for IPS, joined Newbold and Salvation Army Major John Turner at the press conference to present IPS school No. 61 students Micheal and DaShawn Robinson with new backpacks. The boys smiled as they situated their backpacks over their shoulders. Both boys are active in Salvation Army programs at the Eagle Creek corps.

“It’s about being cool and fitting in,” Althardt said. “No child, kindergarten through their senior year, wants to stand out. Self-esteem is such a gift.”

Part of the backpack donation includes a yearly report called the Backpack Index; which will come out in the coming weeks.

“We’ve hired a company to do outside research of school costs excluding things like books, tuition, food and clothing,” Newbold said. “They look at items like pens, pencils and folders —the things we take for granted and track them in an index.”

The index, split into three demographics — elementary, middle and high school, show and track the increased cost of school supplies year after year.

The Huntington Bank Indiana event is one Newbold hopes to continue year after year.


Find more photos of the event here and a video here.