Children in Foster Care Hero

Nearly 250 Southwest Florida children in foster care and temporary homes received new backpacks stuffed with school supplies, as well as a gift card to buy clothing, at Back to School with the Blue in Fort Myers.

The third annual event, coordinated by the Guardian ad Litem Foundation, 20th Judicial Circuit, was held July 16 at Hammond Stadium, where children joined their foster parents, caregivers and volunteer child advocates for a baseball game between the Fort Myers Mighty Mussels and Clearwater Threshers.

Children received new backpacks filled with folders, notebooks, writing utensils and art supplies in addition to $100 Old Navy gift cards to purchase school uniforms or clothing. Children also enjoyed the work of a balloon artist, bounce houses, coloring activities and ice cream served in a batting helmet.

“We really strive to give them experiences that they may not otherwise have access to,” said Jessica Stanfield, the foundation’s executive director. “Of the hundreds of kids we had at the ballpark, only a handful have ever seen live baseball, something we take for granted here in Southwest Florida. Hopefully they left with some great memories in addition to school supplies that set them up for success in the classroom.”

For the third consecutive year, the Shadow Wood Charitable Foundation funded Back to School with the Blue. The local nonprofit supports programs improving the lives of Southwest Florida residents in need.

The Guardian ad Litem Foundation recruits, trains and supports court-certified volunteer child advocates, which represent children as they navigate the judicial, education and child welfare systems. The foundation also raises money to provide children with “extras” like birthday parties, tutoring, summer camp programs, movie tickets, and registration fees for clubs and sports.