As Russell Helsabeck, 7th grade English/Language Arts teacher at Alice Deal Middle School, can tell you, middle school can be a tough transition period for many children. “My students are struggling with changes in all facets of their lives, and it is often hard for them to see themselves as valuable members of their communities for the social and emotional struggles they are dealing with so deeply”, he says. As a way to encourage his students to connect their school work with the outside word, Helsabeck asked his students to find “an individual in their community who exhibits the traits of a warrior.” One student chose Rob Scheer, founder of Comfort Cases, taking the assignment above and beyond expectations.
Comfort Cases is a 100% non-profit organization that provides backpacks for foster children. These bags are filled with both essential and “comfort” items such as toiletries, clothing and activities for the kids. According to their website, “The charity went from providing about 300 kits in 2013 to donating 7,000 to kids in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia foster care systems last year.” Scheer came up with the idea for this organization based on his own experiences with foster care. “Rob was a foster child and has 4 children that he and his husband, Reece, adopted from foster care”, says Vicki Corini, Comfort Cases Board Member.
“When his first 2 children arrived at his house on their first day, he saw that they were carrying a trash bag with their belongings. It reminded him of going to his foster homes with a trash bag filled with used items that didn’t even fit him. He felt it was completely unacceptable that children that are going through such a traumatic experience already have to travel with a trash bag. The fact that he remembers his own trash bag solidified that he could not let foster children use trash bags anymore.”
Aside from ensuring that children are provided with the essential toiletries, Scheer remember how his daughter reacted to her first pair of brand new pajamas and understands that foster kids need comfort items as well such as stuffed animals, clothing and blankets. Max, Helsabeck’s student, became so motivated after finishing his project on Scheer that he asked if he could work with his classmates to collect comfort cases and distribute them to foster kids in a U-Haul Cargo Van.
The Warrior Project
“All in all, our community raised $3,000 we used to purchase brand new bags and donated thousands of toiletries, blankets, stuffed animals, books, bags, and pajamas that we then packed in those bags”, says Helsabeck. “At the end of our packing party we had packed 350 bags, which we loaded into a U-Haul Van.” Helsabeck and his 7th grade class transported those bags directly to the Comfort Cases headquarters where they were quickly distributed to the kids that need them.
— Russell Helsabeck (@mrhelsabeck) April 8, 2016
“The community has embraced Comfort Cases wholeheartedly,” says Corini. “We receive donations from all over the US and we donate Comfort Cases, often via a rented U-Haul to all of the greater Washington DC area.” Thousands of children enter into the foster system each year. As Scheer has seen, many of these kids have nothing more than the clothes on their backs. His organization strives to ensure that all 400,000 foster children across the U.S. “transition into foster care with dignity, not a trash bag!”
Thanks to Max’s extraordinary class project and the collaboration between the rest of Helsabeck’s 7th grade class, Comfort Cases has 350 bags to help contribute to their much deserving cause. Additionally, through project Heslabeck assigned, his middle school students were able to be a part of something bigger than themselves in a critical transition period of their lives. We are proud that Helabeck and the students at Alice Deal Middle School chose to use a U-Haul Cargo Van to help complete their mission.
Visit our In the Community section on myuhaulstory.com to read more stories like this.
What do you do in your community to give back? Share with us in the comments!