Backpack Program 2022

You probably remember going back to school shopping as a child or looking forward to taking your children or grandchildren shopping. You know how it feels to pick out a cool new backpack. The smell of new notebooks and crayons; the excitement of wondering what the year would be like.

You might have been worried about your new teacher, or if you’d make friends. But you probably didn’t worry that your classmates would see you didn’t have the “cool” pencil crayons, or that your backpack was beat up and old. When your teacher said, “pull out your notebooks,” you didn’t look around hoping someone would share some paper or a pencil with you.

Parents know that fear. And no child deserves to start a new school year feeling “less than.” No parent should have to send their kids off to school worried that they’ll get bullied because they don’t have the “right” stuff, and a teacher wouldn’t sigh because you asked to borrow a pencil…again.

The United Way of Bruce Grey’s Backpack Program

returns for its 18th year.

“Over the past 17 years this program has distributed over 30 000 fully stocked backpacks to area children, saving parents an estimated $2 million dollars” explained Executive Director Francesca Dobbyn. “The program saw a return to a pre-pandemic request level of almost 2000 backpacks, after a jump to 2700 in 2020” Dobbyn adds.

The program provides backpacks for 4 grade levels: primary, intermediate, senior and high school.

Local agencies can and do request bulk orders with families and parents calling 211 to register. Depots are set up throughout the 2 counties in late August to get the backpacks out to the requesting families.

Jasmine Adams has returned as the Backpack Program Co-ordinator for her second year running the program and can be reached at

Inflation is hitting the program along with supply chain issues. The United Way works with wholesalers to achieve the best cost savings, but the pandemic has created challenges. “We were able to keep the average cost, to us, around $20 for a long time, but in 2020 it jumped to $30 and in 2021 cost jumped another $10 to $40 across the program” Dobbyn explains. “As a charity, trying to fundraise in a pandemic is challenging, you add in inflation and our donors are seeing inflation hit them, it’s a challenging time.”

The program is 100% supported by the community, people can donate year round by making a donation online through, calling the United Way at 519-376-1560 or by mail or in person at 380 9th street east Owen Sound ON N4K 1P1

Parents can call 211 to register for the program.