ASHLAND -- Hundreds of backpacks filled with school supplies will be given to children at Wireless Zone stores in Ashland and Mansfield on Sunday, Aug. 1.
Wireless Zone, a Verizon franchisor, does the "School Rocks Backpack Giveaway" annually in participating stores across the country.
Families who visit the Ashland and Mansfield stores between the hours of 1 and 4 p.m. will be given one free backpack per child — filled with pencils, paper, a pencil box, folders and glue — as supplies last.
Approximately 100 backpacks will be given out per store, said Jamee Gifford, a representative for Wireless Zone.
Wireless Zone of Ashland is located at 1443 Claremont Ave. The stores in Mansfield participating include locations at 1048 Ashland Road, 625 Lexington Ave. and 1206 Park Ave. West.
“We’ve been doing it for eight years,” Gifford said. “If we’re going to be in a community, we feel like we need to work to make it better.”
Families in the United States with school-aged children spent an average of $789.49 on school supplies in 2020, according to the National Retail Federation. Overall, people spent $33.9 billion last year in school supplies alone in the U.S., according to the federation.
“We know how much it costs to send a kid to school and how many kids are going to school without backpacks and supplies,” Gifford said regarding why Wireless Zone started the giveaway, “and we felt we could make a difference there.”
Since the Wireless Zone giveaway launched in 2013, over 1.2 million total backpacks have been donated, Gifford said.
Dave Staszewski, executive vice president of Wireless Zone, emphasized in a press release the importance of the giveaway given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and families.
“The 2020/2021 school year was certainly a challenging one for families,” Staszewski said. “At Wireless Zone, giving back to the local communities is in our DNA, but it’s taken on new meaning this past year.”
While Mansfield and Ashland have seen these giveaways before, there will be some changes this year because of the pandemic.
Children are not required to be present for caregivers to receive a backpack this year, given space limitations because of the COVID-19 virus, Gifford said.
“We’re just hoping people will be honest,” Gifford said. “We’d love for the kids to come, though."
The event will be entirely outside, which was the case last year as well to adhere to physical distancing but not in years prior, Gifford said.
In previous years, the giveaway had been coupled with other activities, such as face painting, and free snacks and drinks. Including activities and food will be left up to the discretion of store managers this year, Gifford said.
The Wireless Zone team will adhere to local and CDC guidelines to provide a safe environment for event attendees and store employees, Gifford said. Masks will not be required as of now, she said, as the local stores follow its parent company, Verizon’s, direction.
A full list of participating stores across the country can be found at wirelesszone.com/backpack-giveaway.