September 8, 2017 at 12:30pm
Dane Lisser

Big Blue Backpacks program impacts local community in first year

Big Blue Backpacks, a Millikin University student-run organization seeking to make a positive impact in the Decatur, Ill., community and the lives of children and families, began its second year of providing nourishment and wellness to students in need at Dennis Lab School on Sept. 8, 2017.

With the support of private donors in the community as well as local agencies, Big Blue Backpacks provides food for students in need at Dennis Lab School. The organization purchases food items and packs them into food bags for over-the-weekend nourishment. Big Blue Backpacks currently serves 80 students at Dennis Lab School with these meals. Big Blue Backpacks provides breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks to children in hope to ease hunger and related academic deficits.  

Big Blue Backpacks

Big Blue Backpacks started providing bags of food for students in need at Dennis Lab School on Sept. 9, 2016. Since then, Big Blue Backpacks has raised $9,251.84 through private donations, community agency donations and fundraisers. Expenses for food and organizational materials totaled $7,793.03 for the year, ending with a balance of $1,458.81.

"I would like to congratulate the Big Blue Backpack team for successfully providing weekend meals and snacks to 80 students in need at Dennis Lab School over the past academic year," said Professor Mary Garrison, Big Blue Backpacks faculty advisor and associate professor of social work at Millikin. "Our community impact is great as students benefit from nutrition that will enhance their academic skills for school success. These students will become our next leaders and guide the future of our community."

Big Blue Backpacks

Each bag that Big Blue Backpacks provides contains 10 food items for breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks. Examples of common items found in the bags include granola bars, oatmeal, breakfast bars, noodles, soups, canned vegetables, pasta, tuna, macaroni, gummy bears, fruit snacks, pudding cups and fruit cups.

"The leadership team has worked tirelessly to make this happen and I am honored to work with them as their advisor," Professor Garrison said. "Today is our kickoff for this academic year and we look forward to a successful year ahead."

Big Blue Backpacks community partners include the Good Samaritan Inn, Central Illinois Foodbank, Decatur Public Schools Foundation and Aldi. 

Big Blue Backpacks

Millikin students involved with the organization this year include Katie Posch, a senior psychology major from Midlothian, Ill.; Leslie Chandler, a senior human services major from Decatur; Brooke Brasile, a junior art therapy major from Granby, Colo.; Morgan Huffman, a junior human services major from Decatur; and Ashley Woods, a senior human services major from Westervelt, Ill.

Each student in the program is budgeted $80 per year, which will provide them with the resources that they need in order to have the chance to succeed. Every financial donation is appreciated, and Big Blue Backpacks is currently offering sponsorship tiers for donors to choose from:

  • School Desk ($80): Sponsors 1 student for an academic school year
  • Lunch Table ($800): Sponsors 10 students for an academic school year
  • Classroom ($2,000): Sponsors 25 students for an academic school year
  • School Bus ($4,000): Sponsors 50 students for an academic school year

Big Blue Backpacks

For more information about Big Blue Backpacks, visit, call 217.424.5074 or e-mail

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