Backpack to School virtual spelling bee benefits families at Metropolitan Ministries

Searching for a pandemic pastime? For $15, you and your family can host an in-home spelling bee and, in the process, donate a backpack to a Tampa Bay Area child in need. Backpack for School has turned its popular spelling bee fundraiser virtual this year, offering kits geared toward kids in Kindergarten through 8th grade.

Don’t get cocky, adults: unless you can easily spell words like potpourri under pressure, victory is not guaranteed for you. What is? That the purchase of each kit results in a backpack donated to Metropolitan Ministries' Backpacks of Hope program.

“This year will be more difficult for families than previous years, and the Backpack to School community really showed up to help kids get what they will need as they go back to school,” says Raubi Perilli, Backpack to School Founder.

The pivot to an at-home event is already a success for Backpack to School. As of July 21, the organization had raised $4,456, enough to purchase 592 backpacks. Comparatively, last year’s pack number reached 275. The digital collections will be available indefinitely at the Backpack to School website in the hope that philanthropic spellers will continue to donate.  

At-home spelling bees give a creative bent to the annual fundraiser that Perilli launched in 2017. Instead of an in-person bee sponsored by such partners as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Ciccio Cali as in years past, the kits are arranged by grade level and complete with such doozies as rhythm and surveillance (both commonly misspelled words, according to Perilli). Each kit features around 200 words. 

“The spelling bee kits were the perfect way to play into the theme of our annual event while also giving both kids and adults something to do while stuck at home,” Perilli says.

Backpack to School generated the three kits themselves, with some help from Preschool Readers when it came to the youngest age group. Kindergarten and 1st-grade spellers will be asked to dictate foundational words such as fry and dry; they get predictably harder. Expect words such as miscellaneous in the 8th-grade kit. 

The organization is a way for Perilli’s company, Simply Stated Media, to assist children who might experience literacy and reading shortfalls. Today, the Backpack to School home spelling bee initiative can be counted as one of the silver linings of life under COVID-19. Stay at home. Stay safe. Spell and help. That’s Perelli’s hope.

“All of the funds will be used to buy backpacks, school supplies, and books for kids in need,” Perilli says.

Read more articles by Amy Hammond.

Amy Hammond is a freelance writer and author of children’s books that encourage the next generation to attend college. When not indoctrinating youth about the necessity of higher education, she enjoys exploring the paradise that is her St. Petersburg home. She holds a degree in Public Relations from the University of Florida and a Masters in Secondary English Education from the University of South Florida. Her work has appeared in such venues as the Tampa Bay Times. Children’s Book Titles by Amy Hammond include: When I Grow Up, I’ll Be a Gator; When I Grow Up, I’ll Be a ‘Nole; When I Grow Up, I’ll Be a Bull; When I Grow Up, I’m Bama Bound; When I Grow Up, I’ll Be a Tiger.
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