“I wanted to help out other kids that don’t get as much food as I do.” -- Finn O'Malley
THE PROGRAM AT WORK
Packs are returned each Monday for the upcoming Friday delivery
1. Hauling the food shelf bulk food into the school for distribution into packs
2. Blessing of the food
4th graders preparing to pack the backpacks for their neighbors in need
4. Packing is a team effort
5. Ready to deliver!
3. Ready to pack!
FABULOUS FRIENDS CLUB
interview with Finn O'Malley, 2012
written by Joan Mitchell, CSJ
Finn O’Malley and his mom were looking at a magazine together one summer day. They read about a program called Blessings in a Backpack. This program helps children who have breakfast and lunch at school during the week, but whose families don’t have enough food on the weekend. “I wanted to do that,” Finn says. “I wanted to help out other kids that don’t get as much food as I do.”
The article told how kids like Finn and their families pack backpacks with food for weekend meals and take the backpacks to schools. On Fridays, children from families without enough money for food take the backpacks home. On Mondays, these children bring the empty backpacks back, so the Blessings in Backpack volunteers can fill them up for the next Friday.
“I wanted to help out other kids that don’t get as much food as I do.”—Finn O’Malley
His mom and dad thought Finn had a good idea. “My dad found people in our community who needed help. We started out helping five families. We bought food from Sam’s Club like ramen noodles and canned foods. Sometimes we bought bread and peanut butter, snacks little kids can make.”
Finn and his brothers, Gram and Macklin, went with their parents to deliver food to the families. They
learned more about who lived in their city. “One family had three adults and ten kids,” says Finn. “Another family had eight kids with one parent, all with disabilities. One was a man who had to move into a small home in a pretty bad neighborhood after he lost a lot of money.” At the end of summer, Finn wanted their deliveries to keep on. “We were going to stop when school started, but I still wanted to do it,” he says. This is where Finn’s grandparents come in. The O’Malley family had started a small nonprofit foundation called Spirit of Sharing. Every year the family organizes two or three fundraising events for Minnesota families through Spirit of Sharing. “This year we were able to raise money to get the backpack program going,” says Finn’s mom.
The fundraiser is like an auction, Finn explains. “My family got up and told about the backpacks. Lots of people chose us to receive money. We used the money to buy backpacks.”The family foundation and all helped connect the backpack project with Second Harvest Heartland. Only nonprofit organizations can do business with this giant food bank, which supplies food banks all around the city. “My dad applied to Second Harvest,” says Finn, “so we could buy food for less money. Then we talked at our school and all the kids wanted to get involved.”
The Highland Catholic community supports Finn’s program. Each Thursday a different grade helps fill the backpacks. Each backpack has food for seven meals for two children. The children at Highland Catholic take the backpacks filled with food to Mr. O’Malley’s SUV. Finn and Macklin go with their dad to drop the backpacks off. On Monday afternoon they pick up the empty backpacks.
The schools that get the backpacks are only two miles away from Highland Catholic School. The children know they are helping children in their own neighborhood. Nativity School is also in the same neighborhood. Children and teachers there heard about the backpacks and want to fill some, too. Together, the two schools will fill 80 backpacks each week.
“The boys and I have some interesting conversations about what is really important when we’re driving around,” says Mr. O’Malley. “My mom and dad did this with us. They gave us money to buy something we really wanted for ourselves, and then asked us to give it to a child who didn’t have much. It made such an impact on me that I want to do things like that with my own kids.” Mr. O’Malley paused for a minute. “You know, I got to watch the other kids open the present I had bought. I wish the students from our school could meet the students who takethe backpacks home.”