More than 1,000 backpacks stuffed with toys and gear for cold weather will be distributed in Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer this month.

Stephen McPhee, a seven-year-old from Airdrie, and his family flew into an Edmonton airport Tuesday in a helicopter loaded with hundreds of the backpacks for the Hope Mission in Edmonton.

The youngster started Stephen's Backpacks hoping to help homeless children, said his mother, Nancy. McPhee gave away 15 backpacks in 2006. This year more than 1,000 will be handed out.

"I think we need to keep doing this," Nancy McPhee said. " We need to unite as a province and we need to say Alberta's standing strong, that kids don't belong on the streets."

The backpacks are for earmarked for children of all ages, from newborns to 18-year-old teenagers.