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Students Fill over 70 Backpacks for Elementary School Children

A group of people stand in front of backpacks.
Students from Gardner Rise V and LINK with CAPS Collaborative stand with (from left to right) Robin Bourque, Joe Furr and Theresa Miller from Heather’s Helping Hands. The students helped fill over 70 backpacks for elementary school students in Gardner with funds provided by Heather’s Helping Hands.

Students from two transitional life skills programs recently filled over 70 backpacks for Gardner elementary school students in a partnership between Heather’s Helping Hands, the Mount Wachusett Community College Foundation and the life skills programs.

The MWCC Foundation used a generous $1,500 donation from Heather’s Helping Hands to purchase backpacks and supplies. Students from Gardner Rise V and LINK with CAPS Collaborative put everything together and the completed backpacks were transported to Gardner Public Schools during the second week of February.

Three backpacks are lined up with school supplies and snacks in front of them.The effort was led by Heather’s Helping Hands, which was formed in memory of Heather Covey. Heather passed away in 2016 and her family has carried on her legacy of helping others. Even when she was sick, Heather raised money by making rainbow loom bracelets and donated the proceeds to Cystic Fibrosis research. She was a Committee Member for the American Cancer Society, Gardner Relay for Life and loved participating in the Special Olympics.

In the past, Heather’s Helping Hands has used funds to pay for scholarships because of how much school meant to Heather. This year, Heather’s mother Robin Bourque said they wanted to give back in a different way.

“We chose the college because she would be here right now if she was still with us,” said Bourque. “It was a double gift because the students here got to give back through the backpacks.”

Students in the Gardner Rise V and LINK with CAPS Collaborative are aged 18 to 22 and participate in these life skills programs on MWCC’s campus where they hone their communications, social and vocational skills. This project was a fantastic opportunity, said Mindy LeBlanc the Transition Coordinator for CAPS Collaborative, as the students do not often work together on large projects. The project also brought up some bittersweet feelings for some in the program who knew Heather.

A note is pictured along with school supplies and snacks.“It was a really lovely opportunity for us to honor Heather’s memory,” said LeBlanc. “It was just such a beautiful collaboration.”

There were over 70 backpacks filled that will be distributed to elementary school students in Gardner. These include toiletries, writing and drawing materials, snacks, drinks and a blanket. Additionally, each backpack contained one of Heather’s stuffed animals and a note from Heather’s Helping Hands explaining the organization and the bags.