Hundreds of children and their families gathered Saturday at War Memorial Plaza in downtown Baltimore to get free school supplies and other resources to prepare for the coming academic year.
The city gave away more than 1,000 backpacks as well as other school supplies at its annual back-to-school rally, led by Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh. She said the event is part of the city's effort to make sure children have everything they need before classes begin Sept. 5.
"We have 80,000 young people in our school system, so we want to make sure every child that is in need gets what they need to go back to school," said Pugh.
In addition to free school supplies, various city agencies were offering services, including the Heath Department, which provided free vaccinations and HIV and STD testing, and the Department of Transportation, which helped parents identify the bus routes closest to their children's schools. Children and adults were also offered free dental cleanings and resume workshops.
Alicia Tinsleysaid the good weather and atmosphere of the event made it worthwhile for her and her niece.
"It's nice that the city is reaching out to the young people to give them school supplies," said Tinsley, whose niece is entering the fourth grade. Pugh said leftover materials — if there are any — will be distributed at community centers throughout the city.
The rally came on the second day of Baltimore's "Nobody Kill Anybody" weekend ceasefire effort. Nobody was shot or killed Friday, which Pugh said shows people are taking the ceasefire seriously. A shooting was reported Saturday afternoon in the Park Heights neighborhood.
"Let's cease the violence and, more importantly, let's make our city safe," Pugh said. To keep the city safe for residents and children, "everybody has to get into the action," she added.
Part of that action, Pugh said, is reaching out to children early on. She cited the city's YouthWorks program, which provided jobs for more than 8,000 children this summer, as an example.
"Children don't have to be defined by where they live, because every opportunity we can provide for them, we will," Pugh said.