Back-to-school giveaway at Citrus Bowl brings out hundreds

Free backpacks, school supplies given away

ORLANDO, Fla. - An event that was almost canceled because of lack of funds went on as planned Saturday, giving hundreds of children free school supplies they desperately needed.

The 8th annual Hope Now International held their Back to School Bash at the Citrus Bowl on Saturday morning.

Because of the outpouring from the community, the event was saved.

The event is normally held at the Amway Arena, but lack of funds to pay for the venue rental and backpacks wouldn't allow that this year, officials said.

The event offers students free backpacks, school supplies, haircuts, immunizations, dental screenings, vision screenings, and helpful information.

The bash is well known for the number of people who attend each year. Event organizers had to open the doors 90 minutes early in 2011 due to the number of people in line who were standing in heat and humidity, some for hours.

Hope Now International is an organization whose leadership team is all-volunteer. 

"The bash is back and we are ecstatic to be able to serve families who need a helping hand preparing for the new school year,"  said founder and president Michael Radka.

The bash had its humble beginnings at a local elementary school attracting some 300 people. It has grown to be the largest Back to School Bash east of the Mississippi River.

For more information and to register for immunizations, please go to Hope Now International.

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