Backpacks for CASA teens bring personalized touch

·2 min read

Aug. 11—For the fifth year, Northwestern Mutual of West Virginia Morgantown has partnered with CASA for Kids Monongalia and Preston Counties to ensure children in the foster system receive new school supplies for the upcoming school year.

The statewide backpack program is geared toward youth ages 12 and older who are in foster care or out-of-home care, as well as siblings or children in the same home.

Each bag has the student's name embroidered on it and contains new tennis shoes, a blanket, water bottle, wristwatch, combination lock, highlighter, pen, pencil, mini flashlight, snacks and more.

This year, 33 Mon and Preston county kids will receive personalized L.L. Bean backpacks stuffed with back-to-school necessities — all in the student's favorite color. Recipients will find something in literally every pocket and crevice of the backpack.

"For many of these kids, it's the only thing they have ever had that has had their name on it, " said Crissi Christy, executive director of CASA for Kids Morgantown and Preston Counties. "So it really means a lot to our CASA kids."

Fred Bruni, managing director at Northwestern Mutual Morgantown, said the backpack project was born out of the basic needs of individual children and wanting to ensure each had something personal that belonged just to them.

"The foster system is pretty big in the state of West Virginia — there's a lot of kids that are in need, " he said. "We saw an opportunity where we could give back to the community — make someone's day special.

"When I went to school I knew that I got my one pair of shoes before I started school — my school shoes. And so I think it's cool that we can at least bring that to some individuals."

Bruni said their office has donated upwards of 200 backpacks over the years.

Kelly Drayer, director of talent acquisition at Northwestern Mutual Morgantown, said the backpack program is unique to Northwestern Mutual offices in West Virginia and the group raised around $30, 000 for this year's backpacks.

CASA, which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates, works with children in the foster care system on an individual basis from start to finish to assure they are placed in safe, permanent homes as quickly as possible.

Christy and Leah Turner, CASA volunteer supervisor for Preston County, said CASA serves about 33 % of the Mon and Preston kids currently in the foster care system.

"So we are always in need of CASA volunteers because all of our children deserve that one on one attention and that voice in court, " they said.

To learn more about CASA for Kids visit their website at or by calling 304-599-1087.