Backpack Program


“Every child has a backpack

every backpack has a child.”

This is the cornerstone philosophy behind the United Way’s annual Backpack Program.  The United Way wants school to be a positive experience for all children, regardless of their economic situation.  By providing school supplies to low income children, we are providing the tools needed to start off the year on the right foot.

Teachers have remarked to us how this program has taken the bullying out of their classroom (children are often targeted because they don’t have a backpack or school supplies).

How does it work?

The United Way creates backpacks on two factors; gender and grade level.

Four grade levels of backpacks are created to ensure that the right supplies are provided for the right age group.

How does the United Way find the children?

The United Way creates the list of children through the following two approaches – Community (families apply) and agencies.


The community list is created directly from the families themselves.  Either through word of mouth or the media, families learn of the program and call 211 to register.

There is also a slip included in all Bruce and Grey Ontario Works (OW) June and July 1st cheques indicating they could call 211 to register to receive a backpack.

Families are directed to call 211 to register as individuals for a backpack as 211 can also direct them to other services in the region.  Utilizing the 211 service also frees up United Way staff to focus on fulfilling needs.

With the tremendous support from the communities of Bruce and Grey Counties the United Way has always met the needs of all the children.

In addition to providing the intake for the Backpack Program, 211 provides additional information and referrals to other agencies and organizations that the families can access for support.

Local Agencies

Local agencies review their client lists and send the United Way a bulk request for supplies. The agencies provide numbers based on gender and grade level.

An agency caseworker might request 8 primary boys, 4 primary girls, 5 intermediate boys and 7 intermediate girls, etc.  This approach enables the United Way to plan for large requests and creates a distribution system to get the backpacks to the children.

 The United Way is committed about respecting the individual’s privacy with this program.

Making A Difference

2021 marks the 18th anniversary for our Backpack Program and to date we have packed close to 28,000 backpacks!  In 2020, thanks to the generosity of our donors, we distributed 2,682 backpacks to children right across Bruce and Grey Counties.

This year, due to the economical effects of Covid-19, we expect this need to be just as high as last year and we are asking for your help to meet the higher demand for this school year.

There are two ways that you can help make our program a success and at the same time touch the lives of children in need.

1. You may give a financial gift. 

When you donate to our Backpack Program, your gift will go to work immediately and will ensure that children start the new school year off on the right foot with all the supplies they need. With your support, all funds will stay local and lives will be changed.

We would certainly appreciate your support at this time. To donate to the program through Canada Helps, please visit or give us a call at 519-376-1560. Donations may also be mailed to us at: United Way of Bruce Grey, 380 9th Street East, Owen Sound, ON N4K 1P1. Thank you in advance for your financial gift.

2. You may donate school supplies.

We would appreciate the donation of quality school supplies (see our Backpack Program Wish List below). To take part, you may drop off supplies at the United Way of  Bruce Grey office at 380 9th Street East,  Owen Sound  (Monday to Friday:  8:30 am  to 4:30 pm).

Thank you so very much for your support!


Reports and History

2020 Backpack Report

2019 Backpack report

2018 Backpack report

2017 backpack report

Backpack Program – 2016

Backpack Program – 2015

Backpack Report 2013

Backpack Report 2012

Backpack report 2011

Backpack report 2010