It looked like Christmas morning – in August.
More than 400 colorful backpacks flooded the first floor of Wynona's House in Newark Wednesday, an annual delivery from Prudential Financial's "Backpack Challenge."
Since 1999, employees of the company in 39 cities, including Newark and Letterkenny, Ireland, have purchased backpacks with their own money and stuffed them with school supplies for needy children.
This year, workers collected 417 knapsacks, ranging from magenta Hello Kitty to blue Thomas the Tank Engine bags, filled with folders, markers, pencils, notebooks and even toys. Wynona's House, a multiserivce nonprofit organization that cares for child abuse victims and families in Essex County, has received the generous donation for several years.
Prudential has donated more than 48,500 backpacks since the start of the "Backpack Challenge."
"They take their younger children to do this," said David DeFlavio, manager of community engagement at Prudential Financial, of the employees who pitch in. "So not only are they providing some child who needs these school supplies, but they're also teaching their kids about community services and the importance of giving back."
The backpacks will be doled out to children Wynona's House's back-to-school barbecue next Friday beginning at noon. The annual event will have food, carnival rides and games and other prizes and will provide free haircuts for boys and manicures for girls.
"It's a tremendous showing of generosity for the families," said Keri Logosso-Misurell, executive director of Wynona's House. "It underscores the importance of learning, transcending child abuse and enjoying healthy childhood memories of going back to school."