SUITLAND, Md. (WUSA9) -- A group of determined local youth heard about WUSA9's Operation Backpack and decided to take matters into their own hands and give back to their community by collecting school supplies for children in need this school year.
Operation Fill the Backpacks all started with 19-year-old, Gia Alexander from Suitland, Md. She saw WUSA9's Operation Backpack on Twitter, loved the idea and thought it would be the perfect opportunity for her to do something similar for her community.
The young philanthropist brought children and youth together from all over the region to help take part in a free charity event that took place Saturday from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the New Creation in Christ Baptist Church in Suitland, Md.
"I don't feel like people our age get enough credit for giving back in our community. There isn't enough positivity and there aren't enough charity events run by people our age," said Alexander. The organizer of the event believes it is vital for the youth in the community to help make a difference and to set an example for others around.
The energy and willingness to help make a difference could be felt as soon as you walked through the doors. Every person at the event, no matter the age or part they played in the event was ultimately there for the same reason, including the youngest participants.
Some of the tiniest from Models Inc., a community based modeling organization, including Bubbles, the model captain, agreed that being a part of Operation Fill the Backpacks "was the right thing to do and a wonderful way to give back."
The models between the ages of two and 14 took the floor and strut their stuff for the cause. Based off of their presence in the room, it was clear that this wasn't the first time these children had done a fashion show like this before. According to the Models Inc. President, Aaron Handy, "this is just one of the few charity events a select few are walking in, there will be more in the future."
In addition to the models, several local artists and vendors took part in the event as well. The manager of a local band by the name of Dirty Du and the Boyz said, " What were are doing here can help even if it's in a small way. It's great because for once it's people our age helping out."
Other artists including, Five, Pearis J, Maya Milan, Flex Kartel and Alison Carney were all at the event and performed for the audience for similar reasons.
The cause was especially close to home for Alison Carney, a recording artist and songwriter, who is a former school teacher. She said being able to help students out means so much to her because she knows the difference it can make in the classroom.
A total of four local vendors took part in the community event as well. Each vendor was naturally there to help support the cause and then in addition, helped out in any way they could. The vendor Good Life University, which consists of a group of young men, was there to make a positive impact on the kids and donated some free apparel.
At the end of the evening, the group was able to get three full boxes of school supplies for kids in need. Volunteers for America dropped by the event twice throughout the evening to pick up the donations.
In addition to the school donations, the group of youth also raised funding for lupus awareness and research. Muna Nimely, 21, who was one of the organizers and a good friend of Gia Alexander's thought combining the two causes would be perfect. Nimely was recently diagnosed with lupus.
Nimely said, " I am satisfied with the outcome. It makes me really happy to give back and I am so glad we could make a difference in two areas."
Alexander stated, "I don't think one cause is necessarily more important than another cause, however it was perfect timing for Operation Fill the BackPacks since school is just starting again."
Based off of the motivation and collaboration between the group of children, teens and young adults involved, this will certainly not be the last time they will be leaving a positive impact on the community.