Big-hearted Fairies spread ‘backpack’-to-school magic

Ashby Taylor and Michaela Miller with some of the 40 backpacks filled with school supplies for children living in Hibiscus Children's Village. The Backpack Fairy Project is being led by Michaela Miller along with students from Saint Edward's School. [Photo: Kaila Jones]

At a time when many high school girls are busy shopping for their own back-to-school wardrobes and needs, two compassionate young ladies – this year’s Backpack Fairies – are instead shopping and raising money for back-to-school items and backpacks so that the teens living at the Hibiscus Children’s Village in Vero Beach can start the school year with brand-new school supplies.

Michaela Miller, a rising junior at John Carroll High School, and Ashby Taylor, a rising junior at Saint Edward’s School, are carrying on a lasting tradition established 13 years ago by then St. Edward’s student Katy Mulligan, and passed along through the years as a perpetual endeavor.

“I started helping my friend Allie Campione with this project when I was a freshman and got great joy out of helping those less fortunate,” said Miller.

“Children living in the Hibiscus Children’s Village have been abused, neglected or abandoned in their own homes. By supplying them with a backpack filled with school supplies, we hope to boost their confidence. This is really just a feel-good project between friends working together to bring a bit of happiness into the lives of others. Now that I’m a junior, I hope to find someone to continue the Backpack Fairy Project when I go to college.”

The Hibiscus Village houses teens between the ages of 13 and 17 – currently there are about 20 boys and 20 girls – and all are in need of school supplies. The teens have been rescued from dire circumstances, more often than not arriving with only the clothes on their back, and these basic school supplies may be the first they’ve ever owed.

While Hibiscus residents do receive counseling and medical attention as well as assistance with their scholastic, career development and life skills, money to provide extras is limited, especially in light of continuing cuts to governmental funding.

“We are so grateful for the generosity of the Backpack Fairies,” said Donna Clements, volunteer coordinator at Hibiscus Children’s Village.

“These girls not only supply our teens with brand-new school supplies, but they also boost their self-esteem by enabling the children to start the school year on a level playing field with everyone else. Our children are going through difficult times and they just want to be accepted. We are blessed that there are kind, compassionate teens like Michaela and Ashby, who are willing to devote time and energy into enhancing the lives of others.”

The backpacks, sorted as to gender and age, are dropped off at the Village prior to the start of school; any extras are held for later distribution as numerous teens can pass through Hibiscus throughout the school year.

But even fairies need some help. Monetary donations are particularly welcome – the girls will do the shopping for you – but contributions of much-needed school items such as flash drives, college-ruled notebook paper and spiral notebooks, ring binders, ear buds and ear phones, pocket folders, composition books and sketch pads, mechanical pencils and pens, colored pencils and highlighters, rulers, index cards, glue sticks, backpacks and lunch bags are also welcome.

Donations or checks can be mailed or dropped off to Michaela Miller, 1124 Indian Mound Trail, Vero Beach, FL 32963.

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