It was a day for smiles for local foster children who attended the 5th Annual Back to School Bonanza which was held on Saturday, August 4. From the backpacks, school supplies, and books to haircuts, shoes, vision screening and dental exams, the annual event was even bigger than before.
The annual back to school bonanza was organized by Friends of Foster Children Forever (FFCF) and made possible again this year by presenting sponsor Arthrex.
The event, a collaborative effort of several local organizations and area businesses, was a huge success with over 350 Collier County foster children and their siblings served. Among those helping to make a the day a huge success were: Arthrex by providing the funding for school uniforms; Books for Collier Kids provided new reading books for every child; Collier County Bar Association and First Florida Integrity Bank provided backpacks full of school supplies; Laces of Love provided new shoes for each child; Runway International and their volunteers gave back-to-school haircuts; Dr. Howard Freeman and The Lions Club/Naples and Bonita Chapters provided hearing and vision tests.
The Ronald McDonald Care Mobile had two mobile units on site to provide free dental exams, dental care and follow up treatments for foster children, their siblings and caregivers, which was funded by Naples Children and Education Foundation, founders of the Naples Winter Wine Festival.
The day could not run successfully without volunteers and their dedication to the FFCF mission. This year, over 100 volunteers helped with the event by working as guides for the children to ensure they visited every booth for supplies and services. Out of the 100 volunteers over 50 were Arthrex employees and their families. They volunteered their time to help make the event a success along with various other businesses and partnering agencies such as William C. Huff Companies; Walmart Naples – Juliet Blvd.; Early Learning Coalition, SWFL; Golisano Children’s Museum; Health Planning Council of SWFL.; Bikers Against Child Abuse; Cold Stone Creamery; and the Kiwanis Club of Greater Collier. The event was hosted by the Golden Gate Community Center and the Center’s staff contributed their time and talent to make the day a success.
The FFCF mission is to focus on the children they serve by providing targeted educational and enrichment opportunities that allow each child to fulfill his or her potential. The charitable organization works to fulfill the unmet needs of every child who enters or is at risk of entering the foster care system in Collier, Hendry and Glades Counties.
For more information about Friends of Foster Children of Forever (FFCF) or how to help, visit www.friendsoffosterchildren.net or call (239) 262–1808.
Photos by E. Sue Huff and Elizabeth Block