Operation BackPacks aims to provide local children with new backpacks and grade-appropriate school supplies – the tools they need to achieve academic success – and help alleviate the financial stress parents face each new school year.

Operation BackPacks was started by staff of the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance Emergency Department in 2001, after learning about a similar program that was running in another community.  That first year they distributed 26 backpacks.  Since then, the program has steadily grown, adding additional partners along the way – Kiwanis Clubs, United Way, Service Canada, Union Gas, banks and others – to address the increasing need in our community.  Service providers came together in 2004 to ensure that families get the help they need through a more centrally co-ordinated and collective effort.  United Way was asked to take the lead and currently provides administrative support for referrals from agencies, schools and parents, centralization of supply ordering, and volunteer recruitment for assembling and delivering backpacks to schools and communities.

With support from Giant Tiger, Staples, United Way of Chatham-Kent’s Women’s Leadership Council and numerous local organizations and businesses, Operation BackPacks strives to serve every child and family in need throughout Chatham-Kent.

How can I get a BackPack for my child?

Parents or guardians in need of assistance can request a backpack on or before August 22, 2017 for their children online by following this link or visiting www.uwock.ca.  Registration forms have been sent to all schools.  Or, parents can call 519-354-0430 to speak with the Project Co-ordinator. Your personal information is kept private and confidential.

How can I help?


We already received orders for more than 1100 backpacks that will be distributed during the last week of August. We are actively looking for volunteers to help pack the backpacks and to help deliver them into the hands of the service recipients.

Donate Money

You can support this program by donating money, supplies or your time! The easiest way is to sponsor one or multiple backpacks at $25 each. Sponsoring a backpack allows co-ordinators to monitor the quantity of supplies and ensure each child receives the supplies they need based on their grade level.

Donate Supplies

We are in need of the following items in particular:

  • Scientific Calculators
  • Math Sets
  • Lined Paper
  • DuoTangs
  • Pens
  • Crayons

They may be dropped off at the United Way office at 425 McNaughton Avenue West on or before August 22, 2017, Monday – Friday, 8:30 am – 5 pm.

For more information about how you can become involved please contact Mary Symons, Good Neighbours Co-ordinator at 519-354-0430 or goodneighbours@uwock.ca.