From Uniondale to Brentwood, students preparing for a new school year received free backpacks filled with notebooks, pens, markers and more Saturday — and some even got a fresh haircut.
About 1,600 students registered in advance for an event in Brentwood sponsored by the nonprofit Liga De Justicia Foundation in conjunction with the office of State Sen. Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood). And at Lawrence Road Middle School in the Uniondale district, the nonprofit Rachel Quinn Children’s Foundation distributed 300 backpacks during sixth-grade orientation.
At the East Brentwood Fire Department, a massive robot known as “NYC Predador” posed in front of a fire truck as wide-eyed kids surrounded it for photos. Music blared from a nearby DJ’s speakers as children lined up for a chance to sink a man into a dunk tank.
The festive event provided not only an opportunity for local families to receive school supplies, but to enjoy free food and activities.
Attorney William Ferro, the president of the Liga De Justicia Foundation, said the event is about bringing people together.
“We want people to feel involved in the community that we work in, that they live in,” he said.
After receiving supplies, children got a chance to sit for face-painting or get a free haircut courtesy of several barbers who set up chairs. There were cornhole games and free ice cream.
“It’s a feel-good day,” Ferro said. “Everybody here’s going to walk away happy.”
Martinez said the giveaway is in its ninth year and has grown each year.
“A lot of our parents work multiple jobs,” she said. “And this just eases the burden for them.”
Liga De Justicia Foundation also hosts a similar-sized toy drive before Christmas, as well as other events.
About 80 pairs of shoes also were raffled off thanks to donations from the fire department and the foundation.
Most school districts on Long Island welcome students back just after Labor Day.
In the Uniondale district, the giveaway capped the final big delivery of supplies this summer for the Rachel Quinn Children’s Foundation. Volunteers, including members of the Uniondale boys and girls varsity basketball teams, handed out backpacks to students.
Nathan Quinn, who established the foundation with siblings and co-workers in memory of his late wife, Rachel N. Quinn, said the foundation put together 1,000 backpacks with supplies this summer. They distributed to school districts in Hauppauge, Patchogue-Medford, Central Islip, Wyandanch and South Country, as well as the Boys & Girls Club in Bellport.
Saturday was unique, he said, since they got to personally distribute supplies.
“It was nice to see the kids smiling and picking out their bags and the colors they want,” he said.
He said with inflation driving up costs, many families are struggling to come up with money for supplies.
Quinn’s wife was 27 when she died unexpectedly in June 2021 just weeks before giving birth to her first child, Ellie Anne Quinn, who also died. On Saturday, Nathan shared with the students the motto his wife lived by, and that the foundation carries on: "Always be kind."
Retired Uniondale basketball coach Tom Diana volunteers with the organization and said he and his wife have been friends with Rachel Quinn's family for more than 20 years.
“Rachel was one of the nicest, most philanthropic, giving people I've ever met,” Diana said.
As long as the district allows them to keep donating, Diana views the event as a yearly staple for the Uniondale basketball teams.
“It feels good to give back to the community,” Uniondale boys captain Dameek Horton said. “To give back to the youth and give them something that I didn’t really have, it feels really good to inspire them to do what I do.”