Local Benefactor Gives More Than Just Backpacks to AASD Families

Monday, August 5, 2019 | 9:14 AM

Each year, children return to start the new school year with smiling faces, eager to learn and make new friends. But for students who are economically disadvantaged, starting the new school year also can be a source of stress.

Students living in poverty often are in need of basic supplies for school. Backpacks, pencils, pencil boxes, glue sticks, scissors and crayons are among the most commonly-needed supplies for elementary-aged students. The proper supplies are a vital resource to enhance students’ ability to learn and succeed.

In 2015, Sewickley resident and benefactor Mr. Chad O’Brien launched a program called “Give Back a Back Pack” to address this need and others in his community. He got the idea from his sister, who had filled two backpacks with school supplies to give to families near her who were in need of the supplies. “I  thought that was a great idea and decided we could take that up a notch,” said Mr. O’Brien.

What started out as an endeavor to help children with school supplies has blossomed into an all-out effort to provide opportunities to and meet the ongoing needs of students enrolled at Highland and State Street elementary schools in the Ambridge Area School District.

A retired sales and marketing executive, Mr. O’Brien used the skills and contacts he obtained during his professional career to start the Give Back a Back Pack program. While he started the program on his own, Give Back a Back Pack accepts donations from friends and others who would like to join him in his effort to improve the lives of local children. The program raises on average $5,000 to $9,000 annually to benefit children in the area. “I do my best to get others involved and excited about giving back to their community,” he said.

Mrs. Jo Ann Hoover, State Street Elementary School principal, first met Mr. O’Brien when she was the principal at Highland Elementary. “He is an angel,” she said. “He truly cares about our children and does whatever he can to help them succeed. We are fortunate to have him in our corner.”

In addition to providing back packs and school supplies to students at State Street and Highland elementary schools, Mr. O’Brien also has funded field trips and educational opportunities for students. In December 2018, he sent a group of 50 fourth graders from State Street Elementary to the Clay Café in Sewickley for a hands-on clay pottery class and to a local restaurant for lunch. Students were allowed to keep the clay artwork they created as gifts for friends or family.

“We have been incredibly lucky  to have someone like Mr. O’Brien in our corner,” said Superintendent Dr. Jo Welter. “His continued generosity helps to make our District a great place to be, and we are grateful to him for his ongoing support of our students and families.”

To learn more about Give Back a Back Pack, visit the program’s Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/givebackabackpackchad/