More than 500 Newark children received free backpacks during a Back-to-School night Friday at Branch Brook Park organized by the Anibal Ramos Jr. Civic Association.

The Back to School night has become an annual tradition in the North Ward that draws hundreds of families for backpacks, books and back-to-school supplies along with bouncy houses, popcorn and a screening of the movie Wonder.

“For many of our families, the additional cost of buying back to school supplies can be a real hardship,” said North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos Jr. “Our Back-to-School night is a great way to make sure children have what they need to return to school.”

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A recent study by Deloitte found that the average parent spends $510 on back to school supplies, which includes backpacks, books, clothing, shoes and other goods.

Through his civic association, Ramos and his staff organized the massive backpack distribution, collecting money, backpacks and school supplies from local elected officials and community organizations.

Ramos said local elected officials are more than willing to chip in to help children in need.

“It’s always easy to to find elected officials and other community minded groups that want to support our effort,” Ramos said. “We ask, and they say ‘yes’ without hesitation.”

This year’s sponsors included state Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz, Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin, Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr., Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura, Mayor Ras J. Baraka, Council President Mildred Crump and Councilmen-at-Large Carlos M. Gonzalez and Luis A. Quintana.

The Hispanic Firefighters Association and the Hispanic Law Enforcement Society of Essex County also contributed to the effort. Employees of Saint Michael’s Medical Center in Newark also donated backpacks and the hospital provided free blood pressure and glucose screenings to attendees.

Pre-school children also received free kindergarten readiness workbooks donated by Uncommon Schools North Star Academy, which were created to mark the charter school’s 20th anniversary.

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