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Starting school with style
Jason Brower with the Turlock Unified School District Child Nutrition Department loads up boxes of backpacks filled with school supplies donated by Medic Alert through their Crayons to Calculators campaign. The backpacks will be distributed to local students in need. - photo by Photo Contributed
MedicAlert estimates that over 2,000 children in the Turlock Unified School District cannot afford the supplies that they need to begin the school year. That is why they organized Crayons to Calculators, a community-wide initiative to get students the supplies they need to succeed.
TUSD volunteers arrived at MedicAlert on Friday morning to collect the 1,500 backpacks and several pallets of school supplies. The donated backpacks, pencils, erasers, packets of binder paper, and other supplies were loaded on to trucks and taken to school sites around Turlock.
Gil Ogden, director of student services at TUSD, said that the supplies would be distributed when students come back to school next week.
“Teachers have a pretty good idea of which students will need the supplies,” Ogden said.
Martin Kabat, president and CEO of MedicAlert Foundation International, said that Crayons to Calculators is in its fourth year. It was only intended to be a three-year program, but they saw a demand for this type of program continuing in the Turlock community.  
“We received so much feedback from parents and schools, we just decided to keep doing it,” Kabat said.
Every year, MedicAlert purchases enough backpacks and supplies for 1,000 elementary school students, 150 junior high students, and 350 high school students. They then fundraise within the community to recoup some of the funds. So far this year they have raised over $11,000 from staff, local businesses, and community members.
Crayons to Calculators receives vendor discounts that allow them to buy supplies at or below costs. This year they spent around $30,000 for supplies that would have cost $100,000 retail.  
Ogden said that Crayons to Calculators is probably the largest program of its kind in the Central Valley. He said that parents and students are always appreciative for the supplies that they cannot afford.
“It’s really going to level the playing field for these kids,” Ogden said.
MedicAlert is still accepting donations for the 2009 Crayons to Calculators program. For more information, call Aurora Al-Kass at 669-2492.
To contact Andrea Goodwin, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2003.