Almost 1,000 students from the Portland area are expected to convene on Richland Park this Saturday morning for the 12th annual Back to School Bash.

The event — which is sponsored by the Portland Chamber of Commerce — is for any student in Kindergarten through 12th grade who are Portland residents, including homeschool students. Those students must be accompanied by a parent or guardian, who must present proof of residency by showing a driver’s license or a bill with a mailing address included on it.

“This is an event that allows the chamber, the city, local businesses and non-profit organizations to give back to our community,” Portland Chamber of Commerce Events Coordinator Kristen Daughtry said. “We know that back to school can be a stressful and expensive time of the year for families, especially those with multiple children going into school. We hope this event and the supplies we provide can help ease that burden and get students started off on a great foot for the upcoming school year.”

The event will begin at 8 a.m. and concludes at 11 a.m., and it will be held in the back of Richland Park, near the baseball complex.

Daughtry points to the numerous volunteers who allow it to be a successful event.

“This event would not be possible first and foremost without our sponsors,” Daughtry said. “We have businesses and organizations that donate anywhere from $100 or a bicycle to give away to (donations of) up to $2,500. Besides monetary donations that we use to purchase the supplies, we also take donations of products.

“Then, our volunteers are a huge reason we are able to get all of our backpacks stuffed, moved over to the park and handed out. We also get a lot of help from the city as far as picking up supplies when we need a trailer, helping us unpack supplies and unload boxes, and also providing volunteers from the city to help stuff backpacks. Public safety also gets involved and helps hand out backpacks during the event.”

However, the students who attend can leave with more than just what is contained in their backpacks.

“At the event, along with giving out backpacks with supplies, we also give out hygiene packs that contain items like shampoo, body wash, deodorant, as well as laundry detergent,” Daughtry said. “We also give away bicycles, and sponsors set up booths to let the kids play games and win additional school supplies. Then the kids can play on inflatables and water slides.

“Sponsor booths will be set up with games and activities where kids can win additional school supplies. There will be inflatables and water slides set up to play on. Generation Church is a great partner with us in this event as well, and they will have a large area set up where they will be giving out sausage biscuits, sno cones, popcorn and more. They will also have a dunking booth, DJ, prayer tent and more.”

The backpacks and broken up into three age divisions for distribution — Kindergarten and first grade, second through fifth grade, and sixth through 12th grade.

There will also be a free touch a truck event held from 10 a.m. until noon at Richland Park that will allow kids to explore emergency vehicles, bulldozers, trucks and more.

Any backpacks or supplies that aren’t given away will be distributed to area schools so that they can be given to new students who may need one, and some may also be given to non-profit organizations in the community.

Over the past 12 years, the event has expanded from distributing approximately 250 backpacks in its initial stages to what is has currently grown into.

“This is a very successful event, and it is an event that people are excited to be a part of every year,” Daughtry said.

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