Operation Back 2 School is one of the most exhausting, exhilarating things we do at 6 Stones. In the span of seven hours, nearly three thousand kids and their parents march through Campus West here in Bedford. Add the 801 volunteers who registered to guide them through the day and the scores of social service vendors set up at colorful tables that weave around the central room, and you've got an almost literal circus on your hands. It can be a little overwhelming. But it's also incredible to see a community come together for the good of their kids.
Our community is home to all kinds of people. Affluence and poverty mix together, often unaware of the collision. There are families who have been part of the community since it began, and families who came here less than a year ago. Men and women who left their native countries in search of opportunity or to escape violence. Thousands of different life experiences meld together here in the mid-cities. But it's hard to tell the difference between any of them.
Outside of their color-coded t-shirts, you'd never know which people at Operation Back 2 School were volunteers and which came to get help with school supplies. In fact, sometimes a person fits both descriptions; volunteering for one shift and picking up their supplies during the other. Some, like the young women at the end of the video above, come back years later to return the kindness shown to them during their time of need.
One Big Family
We have a lot to be proud of during Operation Back 2 School. In 2018, the event served some 5,829 local students; 3,000 through registration at their upper-level schools and the rest on Saturday. 404 of those students received free vision screenings thanks to our local Lions Club, and 168 kids from that group were referred to opticians. But the most amazing things aren't quantifiable.
More than backpacks, pencils, or candy, Operation Back 2 School gives out hope. If that line of thought sounds silly, I'd challenge you to watch the recap video more carefully. Keep an eye out for the mother who can't contain herself at the news that her family is going to be covered. The students who see their teachers and can't contain their excitement. The way everyone — from the first responders to the kids who can barely get a hold of the box — treats simple school supplies like a personal treasure trove.
When you look at Operation Back 2 School, you're seeing something exceptional. Something rare, but also somehow familiar. You're seeing a community. People who have everything they need showing up to support those who don't, who in turn discover that a lack of physical and financial resources doesn't limit their potential. If ever we're going to succeed as a nation, this is the way it has to be. We need each other, and we need to be reminded that we need each other.
Fortunately, most people around here are living reminders.