As the new school year began, more than 100 Rockland area children received new backpacks full of supplies, thanks to local Stephanie Williams’ Backpacks for Kids program.

During early morning commutes, between fitness classes and running around town this summer, Williams, a personal trainer, became increasingly aware of children in need, and decided she wanted to do something to help. Hoping to give underprivileged kids the tools needed to get the school year started on the right foot, she initiated a fundraising campaign to provide as many Rockland area kids with backpacks and school supplies, as she possibly could.

During August the word spread around town and donations started pouring in. Local businesses and individuals alike, contacted Williams to see what she needed to reach her goal. After a busy few weeks collecting items, Williams and volunteers collected 109 backpacks.

“The Backpacks for Kids program was a huge success. I am overwhelmed with the support and generosity of our small community. We have made a big difference for a lot of people, and put many smiles on little faces. I can't be more pleased with how this all came together and look forward to doing it again next year. A huge thank you to everyone involved. Without you we couldn't have pulled it off. My heart is filled with joy,” Williams said.

Businesses and individuals who participated in this year’s Backpacks for Kids campaign in Rockland are: Dream Local Digital, American Legion, Mid Coast Gym, Herrick's Garage, Rheal Day Spa, South End Grocery, Eastern Tire, Trackside, Fletcher Hall, Christie Richards, Jamie Sagany, Bettina Doulton, Meredith Leiter, Belinda Landry, Laurie Tardiff, Cyndi Prince, Melissa Burgess, Pam Kenniston, Kelly Willis, Heidi Neal, Kelly Saunders, Angie Coppola, Laurie Smith, Leah Nickerson, Leah Watson, Ellen Benkin, Linda Leon, Paula Reed Ryder, Jamie Fullerton, Dennis Camber, Carrie Adams, Robin & Charlie Jordan, Julia and Todd Curtis, Jason and Anita Witham, Judy Tibbetts, Joni Hall, Jean Benjamin, Dixie Burnham, Elizabeth Black, Dale Landrith, Shannon Kinney, BJ McWilliams, Andy Isaacs, Rachel Fowlie, Jen Simmons, Katie Smith, Nancy Schultz, Donald Williams, Katie Vanorse, Lisa Davidson, Hillary Jackson, Jackie Gasser, and Sandy Lowe.

Williams and volunteers handed out the backpacks Sept. 3. Williams hopes to turn this into an annual fundraiser, helping continue to make Rockland area kids’ first day of school even more special.