Amayas expand backpacks giveaway to Uvalde children￼
By Kyle Mooty
For years, Connie S. and Louise L. Amaya of Lockhart have seen it in their hearts to supply backpacks for the children of Lockhart.
This year, following the tragedy of the May 24 shooting at a Uvalde elementary school that left 19 students and two teachers dead, the Amayas decided they could do more. And when their first trip to deliver backpacks to Louis’ hometown fell short of supplying enough backpacks, the Amayas decided to do even more and returned for a second giveaway, this time with support from others, including many Lockhart leaders.
Between Lockhart and Uvalde, the Amayas gave out about 1,800 backpacks.
John Mathew Bernal said his grandparents had done the backpacks giveaway for three or four years, eve leaving them in front of their house for anyone that needed one for their kids to grab during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“People were losing their jobs and they just wanted to help out,” Bernal said of his grandparents.”
The Amayas were using their own retirement money to purchase hundreds of backpacks, giving them right back to the community of Lockhart.
Then, May 24, 2022, happened.
“They wanted to help in some way, and they began the backpack drive for Uvalde,” Bernal said. “On July 23, they gave out 500 backpacks there in 30 minutes. It hurt us because they were looking at us like family and we had to turn people away. There were still 50 more in line. So, through friends and family and some organizations in Austin, we went back on Aug. 13 and gave out hundreds more. It was a 50-50 split (about 1,800 backpacks) between Lockhart and Uvalde. That’s 1,800 students who were able to start school with one of the most-costly items on the back-to-school list.”
Louis Amaya, a Vietnam Veteran, brought the free backpack drive back to his original home of Uvalde. Seeing daily the impact his family and the drive have in his Lockhart community, Louis felt a sense of duty to his hometown.
Connie and Louis hope the Uvalde free backpack drive brought a sense of relief for parents, families, and the students.
Both Connie and Louis Amaya recently retired from Lockhart ISD after serving 46 and 30 years, respectively.
Bernal lives in Austin but said he grew up spending his summers with his grandparents, and they laid a foundation, instilling the goodness of giving “in all of us.”
Before the 2022-23 school year began, the Amayas had held two backpack giveaways in Uvalde as well as their usual event in Lockhart. Each student is able to pick one backpack for free. All backpacks are supplied by the Amayas, family and friends.
Bernal posted on social media a thanks to everyone who helped spread the word about the backpack drives, including “those who donated goods, funds, and everything in between to make the experience for the students a little sweeter.” He also noted that it was time to start planning for next year’s backpack drive.
Why a free backpack drive? Bernal posted on his website that the Amayas know that education is the foundation of building a stronger and better community for all. Why a Backpack? He said that for many, “…the backpack is the most costly item on the Back to School list, but that it essential to starting the year off strong. It’s also their way of saying to students in the community, ‘We’ve got your back… pack!’”