Dozens of backpacks filled with age-appropriate books were given to area foster children on Tuesday as part of the 2014 Books for Youth campaign kickoff at Josam Company in Michigan City.
Books for Youth, a program created in 2006 by the Indianapolis Colts and Cargo Services Inc., has a goal to give a backpack with 25 or so books inside to “every foster child in Indiana,” said Steve Fugate, CFO of Cargo Services Inc. Prior to 2014, Books for Youth has given some 800,000 books and more than 6,000 backpacks to foster children throughout the state.
Tuesday’s 2014 campaign kickoff in Michigan City was a good chance to involve Northwest Indiana children while promoting the Colts in what is normally considered “Bears Country.” While backpacks are distributed to every DCS office in the state, Tuesday marked only the second time an event for Books for Youth has come to the region.
“This has really shot up over the last three years because of the platform the Colts have given us,” Fugate said. “Josam is a good client of ours and they immediately offered this space for us to use. The Colts also want to brand their image more in this area as well, so it is a good partnership between the three.”
“Colts in Motion,” a mobile truck with the interior dedicated to the team was in the parking lot entertaining about 40 kids who made it out to the event. Two Colts cheerleaders and “Blue,” the Colts’ mascot, also took some time to have fun with the kids before and after the backpacks were distributed.
Bringing the event to Josam was the result of the strong partnership between them and Cargo Services Inc. over the last two-three years. Jefferson Clay is the director of business development for Cargo Services in South Bend, and worked to connect the Books for Youth event with Josam, his customers.
“Any support we can give DCS is helpful,” Clay said. “I know Josam went out of their way to buy a bunch of backpacks as well.”
One of the foster parents on hand said the Colts’ event was “great for the kids.”
“A lot of them don’t get to have fun like this too often,” she said. Some kids were able to get autographs from the cheerleaders and “Blue,” play a game of cornhole and catch a pass from the mascot.
Fugate said this year five distributing events will take place, including one during the September 28 Colts game against the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium, when fans will be encouraged to bring books to help fills the bags that will be distributed that day.
When Josam was approached, Debbie Hartnett, vice president of the Michigan City company with executive offices in Philadelphia, jumped at the chance to get involved.
“We wouldn't have even known this existed if Steve hadn’t mentioned it to us,” she said. “We said yes real quick. This is a very well organized function between Cargo Services and the Colts and we are happy to host it this time and would love to do it again.”
Josam is celebrating their 100-year anniversary in 2014 and has been in Michigan City since 1917.
“Through the years manufacturing processes have changed, but Josam continues to be one of the leading plumbing drainage manufacturers in the country, now providing products in cast iron, PVC, stainless steel and SMC/GRP sold to the commercial market,” Hartnett said. “We are pleased to be able to partner with the Indianapolis Colts , Cargo Services and the Books for Youth program in the valuable service they have provided in this area for eight years.”
Buy a backpack, help a foster child
Backpacks can be purchased at www.colts.com. For every one purchased, one will be donated to be a part of the giveaway program.