FLINT, MI – Every student needs a backpack and school supplies, and Amariyanna “Mari” Copeny takes that ideal very seriously.
Mari, also known as “Little Miss Flint”, raised more than $10,000 online in two weeks to gather and distribute more than 1,000 backpacks to Flint students.
“We need to help kids in Flint that can’t afford a backpack or school supplies so the people can go to school,” she said. “School is important. Education is life.”
The 10-year-old Flint resident partnered with Pack Your Back, a nonprofit organization, to pass out free backpacks and supplies at the Mott Community College Event Center on Sunday, Aug. 6.
Last year marked the elementary schooler’s first attempt at the #PackYourBackChallenge on Twitter, gathering 100 backpacks. This year, she returned with a larger goal and 10 times that amount.
“She amazes me with every new task that she throws at me. She wants to do backpacks, we’ll do backpacks. She wants to get to the moon, we’ll try to get her to the moon,” said LuLu Brezzell, Mari’s mother. “Whatever she’s down for in her goals, I guess I’m just along for the ride. I will do everything in my power to make it possible.”
Area teachers will receive the remainder of backpacks and school supplies that were not picked up Sunday to distribute among students in need in the first week of school.
Pack Your Back was founded by Galen Miller, a junior at Central Michigan University, after he worked to bring a semi-truck filled with bottled water to Flint in March 2016. Miller said witnessed first-hand a need based on how the water crisis affected the city’s residents.
Miller collaborated with four other students to start the non-profit because each wanted to give back to Flint, specifically the city’s children through providing efforts to better education.
“No child should have to go through this, and I knew we had to help more,” said Miller. “Our goal is to enhance the educational experience for underprivileged students in Michigan by giving them the tools and resources to succeed in the classroom.”
Pack Your Back will also have an event in Detroit to distribute school supplies and backpacks on Saturday, Aug. 12 at the Detroit Public Library’s main branch, located at 5201 Woodward Ave.
Mari said providing backpacks is one way to continue to build Flint back after the water crisis, but does not want people to lose sight that there is still work to be done on that front.
“Flint kids are amazing, but we’re still dealing with the water crisis, and somebody needs to fix all of these pipes,” Mari said. “I don’t like using bottled water for everything, and I miss taking baths in clean water. The water now still gives me bad rashes, and it smells like fish and stanky old feet. The need to fix it for us kids.”