Fiscal Court to donate $5,000 to Don’t Sleep Backpack Program

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, May 31, 2022

The Boyle County Fiscal Court passed a motion at its May 19 meeting to donate $5,000 to Don’t Sleep for its Back to School Bash.

The Don’t Sleep organization was started by Rashea Ford, and they host annual block parties in Danville, called the Back to School Bash. This is their 8th year.

The Back to School Bash is a free event that serves Danville and Boyle County, but may also serve Garrard and Lincoln counties this year. It will be held July 30 at Millenium Park.

It has games like kickball, basketball, bouncy houses, food trucks, BBQ, drinks, and other entertainment. Attendance averages 3,000-5,000 people each year.

The non-profit collects donations from citizens and organizations, and they have raised about $25,000 so far this year. They also connect and partner with churches who may have similar backpack programs.

Unlike other backpack programs that only give backpacks to low-income families, Don’t Sleep gives an opportunity for any family to receive backpacks. Ford said he does it that way because kids may be bullied in school for having a backpack from a low-income program.

He explained that kids who come from families that may not be able to afford school supplies can feel embarrassed, left out or discouraged by not having those supplies, which affects their attitude and mental health.

At the Bash, parents can sign up their kids to receive the backpacks, and the organization verifies the students’ names with what school they attend. They do not give out backpacks at the event to avoid people reselling merchandise. Ford said they have had problems with people reselling them, but they have taken measures for that to stop.

Parents get a voucher for students to receive the backpacks on their first day of school. The backpacks are filled with whatever school supplies are needed for that grade level and school.

“I think the program has tremendous community-wide benefits,” Judge-Executive Howard Hunt said. “I want to see it continue because [Ford’s] due diligence is going to iron out this piece about people selling backpacks back.”

The program still needs to submit required paperwork for appropriations to assist with funding. Ford said he wants to grow the organization to serve students more throughout the year.

“I’m going to try to get this to where I can do this three or four times a year,” Ford said. “I have kids that literally tell me that this is like a vacation to them.”

In other business, the court:

• Approved one full-time hire: Laura Sims as a Paramedic.

• Approved one part-time hire: Jeremy Wall as a Paramedic.