In just a few weeks, Dominik Mandalawi will start grade three with a box full of new school supplies courtesy of a back-to-school program that’s chosen to help Windsor-Essex families in need.
“I’m actually pretty thankful we got here today, me and my grandma,”Dominik, 8, said. “I have supplies for school, it’s awesome.”
An international Back to School program — operated by health-care company Henry Schein Inc. — supplied Dominik and 76 other Windsor-Essex children with new backpacks, clothes from Old Navy, Nike sneakers, water bottles and school supplies at an event outside the Children’s Aid Society on Saturday. Since 1998, “Team Schein” members have equipped children with back-to-school supplies as part of the company’s global corporate social responsibility branch called Henry Schein Cares — this being the program’s first year in Windsor-Essex.
“I fought for a few years to have this event here and support the local people and the kids here in my own community,” said Carl Bernat, a sales consultant for Henry Schein Canada and organizer of the event. “There is a huge need (here) to give children a head start and a fresh start, and feel like they fit in on the first day of school.”
They don’t come with a lot of financial support, so this is a great boost for them because back to school stuff is expensive.
Through local donations and sponsors — Dental Health Centre, Royal Bank of Canada, and Baker Tilly — Bernat was able to purchase the items and fill all 77 boxes with the help of his neighbours.
Children between the ages of four and 12 were selected to receive the classroom essentials, with 27 chosen from the Windsor-Essex County health unit in Leamington and 50 from the Children’s Aid Society’s kinship program.
“Our kinship families support kids of other family members,” said Cindy Crundwell, supervisor of kinship services and family wellbeing at Children’s Aid Society. “They don’t come with a lot of financial support, so this is a great boost for them because back to school stuff is expensive.”
The kinship services program provides supports for those taking in children and locally oversees between 140 and 160 families.
When Dominik’s mother unexpectedly died in November last year, the only relative able to care for him was his grandmother, Heila Mandalawi — who became his legal guardian in February.
“He is a very strong human being,” Heila said. “I’m very proud of him.”
The items that Dominik received were helpful for Heila, who said it spares her from having to go out and purchase new supplies.
The event ran from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and included food donated by Vito’s Pizzeria and Tim Hortons, face painting, bouncy castles, and appearances by Windsor Fire & Rescue Services and Windsor Police Service.
“It will come back next year for sure,” Bernat said. “And hopefully we’ll do more backpacks.”