Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Backpacks for Kids-- Paying it Forward

Press Release: July 14, 2009

With Back to School just around the corner, the Yurcek family is once again on a mission, to give foster children and other needy children a head start for school. This year Grant County Wisconsin Program will serve about 150 children with new backpacks and boxes of school supplies to differing sites throughout the county. In the past seven years nearly 5,000 children have been given a hand up for the start of school due to the generosity of others and the Yurcek kids. This year Becca Yurcek was inspired to take Backpacks for Kids-- Cyber Campaign. She is asking her avid readers of her Movie Deals on her Mom's Blog to buy a Backpack and schools supplies for a child in need in their own communities

The Yurcek's knew what it meant to be without years earlier, when the Becca the youngest was a critically ill baby, the oldest four children started school due to the generosity of others. Several years later the Yurcek family grew when they reunited and adopted five siblings separated in foster care. The older adopted children remembered what it was like to head back to school from the homeless shelters empty handed.

Ann Yurcek was speaking to a group of foster and adoptive parents and the family learned about a group of foster children in Detroit who had just received 500 empty backpacks. On the trip home the children spent the three-hour trek planning on how to raise money to help fill those backpacks, as they knew what it was to be without. In less than l0 days, the childrens’ pop cans, lemonade stand, garage sale and door-to-door flyers helped fill over 100 backpacks with supplies. It was just their way of paying it forward.

Returning to Detroit, the children shared their dream of helping in Kalamazoo the next year. The foster care group gave the Yurceks 91 backpacks to help homeless children just in time for school. Backpacks for Kids was born. The project grew, and engaged the community to care. The Yurcek's Backpacks for Kids program has gained National Attention when it won the Disney All Stars Volunteer Team Award in 2004, and was featured in People Magazine in November 2005 for Small Angels, Kids Who Care. It was shared in a December 2006 Feature Story on Madison TV along with A Christmas Miracle and many news stories over the seven years of the programs existence.

But the Backpack Program is far from done even though the family now lives in Lancaster, Wisconsin for the past two years. Two years ago the Yurcek family left the Backpack Program in good hands as Kalamazoo families who have helped in the program carry the mission forward along with several other programs to fulfill the needs. In Lancaster the program is growing and Backpacks for Kids is partnering with Grant County Social Services, community organizations, and others to help Grant County Foster Families and families in need have new school supply stuffed backpacks for the start of school.

The Yurcek family story and the backpack chapter is chronicled in a 2006 published book, Tiny Titan, Journey of Hope. The story of a family who lost everything when their youngest daughter Becca was born with a severe form of Noonan Syndrome. With six children, one of them a dying baby, the family struggled against poverty, catastrophic medical bills and the despair faced by many families with terminally ill children. The Yurceks learned from the Tiny Titan to never give up and due to the Angels in their lives, they moved forward. Jim returned to school; two years of undergraduate coursework and four years of medical school were supported by delivering newspapers as a family. As the family was moving to Michigan for a general surgery residency they adopted transracially a set of five siblings. The story moves forward through the challenges of their newly adopted children’s attachment issues and the diagnoses of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. The book is the roller coaster of the ups and downs of life of special needs families and miracles.

Tiny Titan Journey of Hope was written to inspire others and to raise awareness of the causes of special needs families, foster and adoptive families and the children they raise.

Tiny Titan, Journey of Hope by Ann Yurcek was recently honored as being selected as a two-time finalist in the 2007 Mom’s Choice Awards. Tiny Titan, Journey of Hope was a finalist in the categories: Adult: Non-Fiction and the Your Heart Our Hands special category.

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