More than 9,500 children crowded into the Amway Center Concourse on Sunday, July 29th, for Central Florida’s biggest back-to-school event. Many of Orange County’s school-aged children live in poverty and the HopeNow Foundation annual event is a great opportunity for all kids to feel good about themselves on the first day of school.

Much like Christmas, children who attend the annual school-supply drive can make a lap through the arena concourse where families have a one-stop shop for free backpacks, school supplies, haircuts, medical/dental checkups, entertainment and other needs.

Kids who attended were able to get haircuts from barbers and stylists in one corner of the concourse while in another, eye doctors and dentists provided checkups and consultations.

This year’s HopeNow Back 2 School Bash may have been his most fun day yet. In total, between parents, volunteers, Amway staff and children, there were more than 25,000 attending. For the kids, there were custom-made backpacks filler with school supplies, dental care, haircuts, vision screenings and entertainment.

Kristen Ferguson, account executive, Dina and Keith Kessler, owners of Kessler Creative attended this year’s Back 2 School Bash and volunteered their time, talent and services to assist with the massive undertaking. “Every year, this is a fantastic day for thousands of kids to feel the love of their community and experience the positive side of people caring for others”, said Kristen Ferguson.

For more than a decade, HopeNow International has served Central Florida students and their families by providing school supplies, backpacks, haircuts, vision screenings, dental screenings, health screenings, nutrition and resource advocates. The Back 2 School Bash and Operation Education are the initiatives HopeNow uses to provide these supplies and services. “The HopeNow Foundation and it’s mission represent what’s right in our area and that’s why we love to support this worthwhile organization” says Keith Kessler.

Hope Now International is a 100% volunteer organization, there are no paid staff members. The first Back 2 School Bash took place at an Orange County elementary school in 1995. At that time, it was not the Back 2 School Bash it was simply a group of “Do Gooders” coming together to help some kids that needed a hand up. At the initial event, the volunteer group was able to acquire approximately 50 backpacks with supplies and constructed a make shift mobile immunization area.

The response and attendance was so overwhelming, that the volunteer group decided to continue organizing the event. The volunteer group created what is known today as the non-profit HopeNow International, a 501c3 certified organization. Although the Back 2 School Bash has grown exponentially, the purpose remains the same; to help and care for those who cannot help themselves.

The Back 2 School Bash by the numbers:

  • 25,000 + attendees
  • 9,300-10,000 Children
  • 10,000 Backpacks
  • 400 Immunizations
  • 700 + Dental Screenings and Fluoride Treatments
  • 500 + Vision screenings
  • 2,000 + Health Screenings
  • 600 + Volunteers
  • 70,000 + School Supplies
  • 400 + Haircuts

Please visit http://hopenowinternational.org for more information about this great organization.