Back The Pack is not a basketball defensive scheme, nor a Winthrop basketball slogan to hashtag on Twitter or slap on a car bumper.
It’s Jennifer Graham’s pet project, one that’s working to silence the growls in the tummies of undernourished elementary school students in Rock Hill.
“Our family always attended Winthrop games and enjoyed those and thought they were fun for our kids, and then our kids started elementary school and we really had a chance to get involved with the school and just appreciated what they were getting out of their experience in Rock Hill schools,” Graham said Friday. “Combining those two things to support Back The Pack just seemed a natural fit.”
All Rock Hill School District elementary school students, staff, family and friends can attend the Winthrop men’s and women’s basketball doubleheader on Saturday, which starts with the women’s game at 1 p.m., followed by the men at 4 p.m., free of charge by bringing a donation item for Back The Pack, which is administrated by Rock Hill schools.
Graham, a mother of three, is in her third year of helping orchestrate Winthrop’s Back The Pack event. Over the past two years of Back The Pack, Graham and company have raised over $10,000 for local schools and collected thousands of pounds of food; they plan to top $20,000 after Saturday. Winthrop benefits too; hundreds of kids have attended their first Eagles sporting event, and the Back The Pack crowds have been the school’s two biggest crowds of the last two years.
Additionally, the school whose students, parents and friends donate the most will receive a $1,000 prize from Back The Pack’s community sponsors, while second and third place will take $500 each as well. There will also be a $1,000 prize drawn at halftime of the men’s game for a lucky school.
“We really wanted to give money to Back The Pack but we also wanted to give these schools some free money,” said Graham. “They could spend that on whatever their needs are. So much of their money is earmarked for something else.”
There will be plenty of Back The Pack hoopla Saturday in the Winthrop Coliseum, but the real beneficiaries remain anonymous. Back The Pack provides non-perishable food to schools to discreetly slip into the backpacks of children who are at risk of going hungry over the weekend while they’re not in school. Far from center court at the Coliseum, these kids will be on Graham’s mind Saturday.
“It’s something we take for granted, that we have meals on the weekends,” she said.
Bret McCormick • 803-329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T