First-ever community giveback offers thousands of free backpacks


In this file photo, Grady Brenay, 8, left, wears his backpack backwards as he receives school supplies with his brother, Jackson, 4, right, during the Back To School Fest at Paddock Mall in Ocala, Fla. on Saturday, July 31, 2021. 6,000 backpacks filled with school supplies were given out during the event to help students and their families get ready for the first day of school on August 10. Numerous sponsors including AdventHealth, Paddock Mall, Jenkins Kia, Ocala Electric Utility, Chick-fil-A, Southstate Bank, Skanska, the Bullard Family Foundation, McKenzie’s Moment, Advanced Dental Care and the Kids In Need Foundation donated supplies for the back-to-school event. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2021.

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Posted July 20, 2022 | By Ocala Gazette Staff

AdventHealth Ocala, the Community Foundation for Ocala/Marion County and Marion County Public Schools have joined to help supply thousands of local students with free backpacks filled with school supplies, according to a June 14 press release.

The first-ever Community Giveback event, supported by Thaddeus Bullard, a.k.a. WWE Global Ambassador Titus O’Neil, and his Bullard Family Foundation, will take place Saturday, July 30. The event is set to distribute over 6,000 backpacks filled with school supplies at seven locations throughout Marion County.

The main location will be at the AdventHealth Ocala Auxiliary Center, 1542 S.W. 1st Ave., Ocala. Event hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Satellite locations are open 10 a.m.-1 p.m. and include:

  • Belleview High School (10400 S.E. 36th, Belleview, 34420)
  • Dunnellon Middle School (21005 Chestnut St., Dunnellon, 34431)
  • Fort McCoy School (16160 N.E. CR 315, Fort McCoy, 32134)
  • Lake Weir High School (10351 S.E. Maricamp Road, Ocala, 34472)
  • Liberty Middle School (4773 S.W. 95th, Ocala, 34476)
  • North Marion High School (151 W. County Road 329, Citra, 32113)

Parents and guardians can register their students at www.eventbrite.com/e/back-to-school-community-giveback-tickets-298105921837. In order to serve the most children possible, students can only be registered for one location, according to event organizers.

Event sponsors include Skanska, Bullard Family Foundation, Heart of Florida Health Center, SouthState, The Boyd Group, SellState, Ocala Electric Utility, Florida Health-Marion County, FreeD.O.M. Clinic USA, Chick-fil-A Paddock Mall, New Day Christian Fellowship, Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Marion County Emergency Management, Marion County Fire Rescue, Stentiford Construction Services, DeLuca Toyota, Regions Bank, Army National Guard and the College of Central Florida.

Anyone interested in volunteering for the event can register through Marion County Public Schools (MCPS) at www.signupgenius.com/go/10c0f4fafaa2ca0f5c52-back or contact Lauren Debick, executive director of Communications and Community Engagement, by email (Lauren.Debick@marion.k12.fl.us).

The Marion County Community Giveback effort is part of a larger event sponsored in the Tampa area by the Bullard Family Foundation. To donate to a school supply drive list benefitting this first-ever event, community members, businesses and others can purchase supplies from www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/23UPUPEH9THQT?ref_=wl_share.

All items will be shipped to and distributed by the Community Foundation. Donation boxes will be available throughout Ocala/Marion County and at sponsor locations.

For more information, contact the MCPS Public Relations Office or Ashley Gerds, director of Strategic Engagement at the Community Foundation for Ocala/Marion County, at (352) 622-5020, ext. 105, or by email at ashley@ocalafoundation.org.