News Column

Students flock to the zoo for back-to-school giveaway

July 30, 2014

By Doug Livingston, The Akron Beacon Journal

July 30--From Grizzly Ridge to the Tiger Valley, Akron Public Schools students and their families took a safari at the Akron Zoo filling donated backpacks with back-to-school goodies.

The two-day program, Backpack Adventure at the Zoo, started Tuesday and concludes Wednesday. Some 2,500 elementary students registered ahead of time to participate.

The event program was started eight years ago by former trustees of the Akron Zoo, which has an overlapping interest with schools.

"Obviously Akron Public Schools is all about the kids, so it was just a good fit for the zoo," said David Barnhardt, director of Marketing and Guest Services for the Akron Zoo. "We're really focused on being a good community partner."

The program is sponsored largely by the Dominion Foundation and Macy's, which provided funding to purchase pencils, pens, crayons, rulers, erasers, folders and the backpacks, which kids scrambled from station to station to fill.

Akron Public Schools and the Akron Zoo organized the event, which is staffed by volunteers from several local community groups and businesses.

The kids, however, could care less about who put on the event.

"To get all this stuff and to look at the animals" is why Cameron Dolly, 6, said he went to the zoo on Tuesday.

Cameron and his sister, Gabrielle, 9, attend Firestone Park Elementary. They kept an eye out for the snow leopards and lions and another eye out for their classmates.

"It's really nice because by this time in the summer they're all going crazy not seeing their friends," said mom, Jennifer Dolly.

For Jennifer Dolly and fellow parent Mardi Gibson, whose four children attend Lawndale Elementary and Innes middle school, the free school supplies were a bonus to a pleasant family trip to the zoo.

"It helps get the shopping out of the way," Gibson said. "And it's nice to get the kids together doing activities."

Students registered through their elementary school for free admission to the zoo.

Additional volunteers and funding came from Akron Council PTAs, Akron Summit Community Action, Allstate, Beacon Charity Fund Inc., Christ Child Society of Akron, the City of Akron, Color Our Rainbow Academy, Corporate Volunteer Council, FirstMerit Foundation, GPD Group, Graffitti--Print Shop, Office Depot Foundation, OMNOVA Solutions Foundation, Preferred Meals, Staples -- Chapel Hill, Staples Foundation, Stutler Leasing, the RIGHT Committee of Goodyear Heights and Metro Regional Transit Authority, which provided free busing.

Local libraries and Pat Catan's also hosted arts and crafts exhibits for students.

Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or


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Source: Akron Beacon Journal (OH)

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