When you're a kid, there's hardly anything worse than having other kids make fun of you because you're poor or can't afford to buy lunch.

You don't have the "right" clothes. The "newest" game. The "coolest" phone. Or the supplies you need on the first day of school.

It's no better when you're an adult. But you've had a lot of years to realize the rude kids had their own set of issues and you have more important things to care about.

Until then, the Back 2 School Alliance will provide new backpacks and school supplies to kids in grades K-8 who are eligible for reduced-price or free school lunches. The community's help is needed to make the program work.

Qualified families have to follow a few rules (make sure you've registered at school, gotten your kids' shots and physicals) and fill out a few forms, but in return, the kids will start the school year on even footing with their more fortunate peers.

Such programs are common in other, smaller counties (Clinton's Write Stuff for Kids is a great example) and some individual schools or groups have similar giveaways.

Back 2 School brings together a number of smaller groups to provide the biggest bang for the buck.  The alliance, now in its 17th year, is for kids in both the Normal-based Unit 5 and Bloomington District 87 school districts. More than 1,700 kids were helped last year. 

The work makes going back to school a fun and meaningful time for all students, not just those with bottomless credit, because school can be expensive: there's a long list of required supplies, a new round of fall, winter and spring clothing, extracurricular costs and more.

Families whose students qualify for the program will be sent an invitation to the Aug. 8 giveaway party at Grossinger Motors Arena. Amidst an atmosphere of games, photos and fun, the kids get a backpack filled with school supplies.

About 5,500 kids in grades K-8 are eligible for the program, which is a group effort of schools, the Illinois Prairie Community Foundation, churches, volunteers, agencies and neighbors who volunteer for myriad activities. 

What to be on the green team? You can clean up during the party. Want to sort supplies? Shifts are available. Want to police the photo booth? Stuff the backpacks? Visit the volunteer sign-up section at http://www.signupgenius.com/go/10c0d48a8a62aa3fd0-back1.

To sign up your child, get a form at your student's school during walk-in registration, or visit the school office after Aug. 1 if you're registering by mail or online. You'll need to complete the information section of the invitation, bring the invitation to the party, and make sure your child is accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Volunteer, donate or sign up to give our kids a good start to the school year. 

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