Ashley, Shawn and R'moni
operation backpack
Ashley is a 26-year-old mother of five beautiful children under the age of 10. Her oldest sons, Shawn and R’moni, are going to receive new backpacks and school supplies through YMCA Operation Backpack this summer. This will be their fourth year of participation.

Ashley works as a Certified Medical Assistant, a certification that she worked hard to achieve. “It took me 2 years to complete a 10-month course,” she says. While attending school, Ashley cared for her four children, with a fifth one on the way. She also cared for her mother, who ended up passing away while Ashely was still working on her certification. Despite her many challenges, she persisted and achieved her goal of graduating, an accomplishment that she sets as an example for her own children. Today, in addition to working as a CMA, Ashley works a part-time job at a fast food restaurant.

Like many parents in the greater Houston area, Ashley was concerned about how she would manage purchasing school supplies and clothes for her children, in addition to paying all of her regular bills. She learned about YMCA Operation Backpack on television and then visited her local Y to find out if she qualified. “[Participating in YMCA Operation Backpack] means that in times of need, you can always depend on the Y,” she says.

When the staff at her local Y discovered Ashley was attending school as well, in addition to giving backpacks and supplies for her children, they made sure to secure the same for her, including notebooks and colored pencils, to help with her assignments and homework.

After benefitting from the Y’s back to school initiative for several years, Ashley is relieved she can trust and lean on the Y as a source of help to keep her children successful in school. “It’s a guaranteed thing, that the Y is consistent with YMCA Operation Backpack every year. It’s less stress for me knowing that the Y is getting ready to do YMCA Operation Backpack again. It’s one less problem that I have to worry about,” she shares.

And Shawn and R’moni are doing well academically, she proudly states. Having excelled in reading, scoring above their reading grade level and also improving significantly in math over the past school year, they are enjoying their summer break and excitedly await the beginning of third grade in the Fall.


Norma, Madison, Juanita and Zoey
Norma F. is a hard-working, single mother of three beautiful daughters, Madison, 15, Juanita, 13, and Zoey, 10 – all three adopted. Norma’s involvement with the Y dates back to 2008, when Hurricane Ike hit the Houston area. The storm caused the child care facility where she worked in Galveston to close, and she lost her job. Norma soon found a job at a YMCA child care facility, which allowed her to keep providing for her children.

Years later, after Norma accepted a new job at a local college, she was reintroduced to the Y and its programs. Norma had concerns about her daughters’ swimming skills, as she doesn't know how to swim herself. “If something were to happen and they fell into the water, I wanted them to be able to take care of themselves and get to safety. To me it was a big deal for them to learn how to swim,” she says. Madison, Juanita and Zoey attended free swim lessons at the Y for two summers and were able to learn live-saving skills.

Another invaluable Y program for Norma is YMCA Operation Backpack. This will be the third year that Norma and her children receive backpacks and school supplies at no charge. “Participating in YMCA Operation Backpack is definitely a big plus. I’m a one-income home, and you’re multiplying school supply costs by three to get everything for everybody. Plus, their needs change every year," she says. “The Y has definitely helped me out in not having to buy quite as many supplies.”

Life hasn’t been easy for Norma and her girls, but Norma is a dedicated mother and, with the help of her loved ones as well as the YMCA, she remains positive. “The Y has definitely helped me out. I have my girls, and I’ve had them since babies. We’ve grown together. It hasn't been easy, but I wouldn’t change what I’ve done. I would do it all over again."


Ronaldo and Ronaldo Jr.
"I heard about YMCA Operation Backpack at the right time. I was seeking custody of my son and I wasn’t sure how I was going to be able to afford school supplies. YMCA Operation Backpack was a godsend and it saved me.”
– Ronaldo

"It’s exciting to know that I can go into a room and pick out any backpack that I want. This last year I didn’t have to borrow anyone else’s supplies, like I had to do in third grade.”
– Ronaldo Jr.

Ronaldo, 48, is a single father who works multiple jobs to make ends meet for him and his son, Ronaldo Jr., 9.

The two came across YMCA Operation Backpack when attending a YMCA community event held at Ronaldo Jr.’s school last year. Ronaldo Sr. was seeking custody of his son at the time and wasn’t sure how he was going to afford school supplies. “YMCA Operation Backpack was a godsend and it saved me,” he said.

Since his initial contact with the YMCA, Ronaldo Jr. has been enrolled in the YMCA’s After School program, which has been very helpful for his father, who takes care of him full-time while working a day job as a contractor and a night job as a custodian.

“I've had to recreate myself. I’ve had to take my son to work with me when I didn’t have child care. It was tough,” he said. “I lost a couple of jobs. We went as low as you can go. With the YMCA’s help we are doing much better.” When he drops off his son at the Y, he feels relieved. “I know there is structure and security. I know he’s safe. He’ll work on his swimming skills, on his interaction with others, on his communication skills and on his behavior.”

Ronaldo Jr. and his father have been through a lot in life, and the Y has provided them with a place to belong and to overcome obstacles. Ronaldo Jr. also has participated in YMCA Day Camp where he made new friends. Together, they've attended Family Camp at YMCA Camp Cullen and experienced fellowship with other parents. They even went to a Thanksgiving community dinner held by the Y.

“The Y has allowed me space to go forward.” Ronaldo Sr. said. “It allows me to get resources and follow through with job interviews and appointments. I couldn’t have done it without the Y.” When asked about his favorite things at the Y, Ronaldo Jr. said without hesitating: “It saved my daddy’s life.”