Every year, the New Richmond School District Happy Kids Backpack program provides backpacks full of food to families who qualify as "financially in need." During the 2017-2018 school year, the program delivered more than 70 backpacks each week.
The program's sole fundraiser is the annual Empty Bowls event. The 12th annual event will run from 5-8 p.m. Thursday, April 25, in the New Richmond High School commons. According to NR School District supervisor of school nutrition Bobbie Guyette, the event was originally scheduled for April 11, but was moved after the Packers Tailgate event was scheduled for the same night.
"The goal is to try and fund the program for a whole school year. Last year, the event - along with the sponsorships and what came in around that time - we raised about $19,000. We can make around $20,000 work for the Happy Kids Backpack program, but we are always looking to provide better quality food in terms of fresh produce, fresh meat, milk weekly and those kind of things," Guyette said. "That would, of course, increase our annual need. Right now, we are giving away about 70 backpacks every week here in the district and, with our district growing, that number will grow as well."
According to Guyette, backpacks go home with students each Friday to last the family through the weekend. The cost is approximately $8.50-$12.50 to fill each backpack with nutritious food. Last year, Empty Bowls raised enough money to help roughly 70 families, totaling well over 300 individuals in the New Richmond community. The event is completely volunteer-run on an almost zero budget. Time, services and products are donated at little or no cost so all the money raised can help others.
"We have several great community sponsors that help fund the event and we will have some T-shirts for sale. But the big draw at the event is all of the pottery, which is both community and student made," Guyette said. "We again have local restaurants donating soup and bread, so we will have that meal available. You can come and chose to buy a bowl, but you don't have to. The bowl, which comes with a meal, is available for a charge or you can make a donation and just get the meal, which is soup, bread and a bottle of water."
Clay bowls range in price from $10-$25 each, and include a meal with each purchase. There is no charge to attend the event itself.
A variety of clay pottery pieces will also be on sale during the event, with each piece being created by local artists and students. The event will also include a silent auction, a bake sale, a DJ and fun activities for children, such as a fruit walk, bracelet making and face painting.