CAMDEN, NJ — A large gathering of second-grade students looked across the KIPP Lanning Square campus gym at rows and rows of colorful backpacks.
Susan Bass Levin, president and CEO of the Cooper Foundation, told the children that her office looked "like it could be a Target store."
"All filled with backpacks and glue and crayons and rulers," Levin said to laughs on Tuesday morning.
The students from KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy, which educates kindergarten through eighth grade, are just some of the Camden children to benefit from more than 2,200 backpacks filled with school supplies through Operation Backpack, an initiative of the Cooper University Health System's foundation and employees.
The two-month donation drive will also reach the following: Cooper Lanning Civic Association, Camden Promise Neighborhood Family Success Center, Cooper's Poynt Family School, Harry C. Sharp Elementary School, Lanning Square West Residents Association, Riletta Twyne Cream Early Childhood Center, St. Joseph's Carpenter Society, Veterans Memorial Family School.
Additionally, supplies are being sent to the All Things Are Possible Foundation in Willingboro and Center for Family Services impacting Burlington, Camden, and Gloucester counties.
"You all have a very special place in the hearts of all the grown-ups who help make this school so special," Levin said to the second graders from KIPP Lanning Square, the first stop on the donation route around the city this week.
On hand to greet the students and help distribute the backpacks were officials from Cooper and the Camden City School District, including Superintendent Katrina McCombs, who served as principal of the former Lanning Square School that was demolished at the site in 2011.
McCombs took questions from the group about the history of the KIPP school and how long the building has been there. It opened in September 2015 after less than two years of construction, marking both the city's and state's first renaissance school.
She called on the students to repeat with her that "this year will be my best year."
"We wish you a wonderful, wonderful school year," she said.
Before making selections from the variety of backpacks lined up, the second graders treated the special guests to a variation of Michael Jackson's "Love Never Felt So Good."