This university student donated 300 backpacks to children displaced by the Lytton wildfire
Donation helps kids at both of the ravaged area's schools
After a tough summer for the children of Lytton, B.C., some relief has come in the form of school supplies.
Paul Drakos, a second-year undergraduate student from Ontario, donated hundreds of backpacks filled with school supplies for the students who've spent the summer evacuated from their homes, many of which burned down.
As he combed through news stories about the devastation in Lytton, Drakos said he felt compelled to help.
"Being a student myself, I just thought these families have lost everything and there's so much of their lives that they need to rebuild," he said.
"I wanted to help the children get ready for school so that could just be one less thing their parents would have to focus on."
He started calling friends and family, sharing the story of Lytton and explaining his plan.
Drakos raised $3,000 in about three weeks. With that, he was able to purchase backpacks, pens, pencils, pencil cases, sharpeners, erasers and crayons for about 300 students.
He connected with Edith Loring-Kuhanga, a school administrator for the Stein Valley Nlakapamux School, to find out how he could get his donation to the students.
"I was just so impressed and overwhelmed because he had to organize [this] himself and then he had to get the message out, and to be able to fundraise for 300 backpacks with school supplies is utterly amazing, absolutely amazing, and so grateful and thankful to him," Loring-Kuhanga said.
The donation helped not only the children at her school, but also at the Kumsheen ShchEma-meet School.
Lytton was essentially destroyed, and the Lytton First Nation remains on evacuation order. Loring-Kuhanga said students will attend school virtually for the first six weeks of school, starting Sept. 13, and after that they'll re-evaluate whether it's possible to bring kids back for in-class learning.
"In most cases, our families are scattered all over," Loring-Kuhanga said.
"They're really struggling in so many ways and to not have to worry about buying a backpack and some of the very essential school supplies, I think is just a weight off of their shoulders."
Drakos, who is working toward a career in health care at McMaster University, said he's always been drawn to helping others.
"I've always been an active member and helping my community. I was a member of my school student council. We raised several donations and food drives for various charities," he said.
"Reading these stories and hearing about these peoples' lives, your heart goes out to them and it's hard to then just kind of look away from it, just keep going with your life. The more I heard and then, the more I knew about it. I was like, 'I need to do something to help these people.'"