DETROIT/WALLED LAKE — Twelve-year-old Caleb White has never worried about going back to school without school supplies.
And when the Clifford Smart Middle School student heard that a back-to-school party — formerly hosted by Beulah First Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit and which provided backpacks filled with supplies to underprivileged students in Detroit — was going to be canceled, Caleb took it upon himself to throw the party.
The back-to-school party for Detroit youth will take place at the Beulah First Missionary Baptist Church 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Aug. 23.
Taking a shot in the dark, Caleb sent an email to the chairman and founder of Rock Ventures and Quicken Loans Inc., Dan Gilbert, who then responded and copied the email to a list of CEOs of his family of companies, asking them to donate, as well.
Caleb then met with Gilbert and various CEOs in the Chrysler Building — the inside, he said, looked like an “old vintage bank vault” — to discuss his project. Chalkfly and dPop! offered to take the lead in fundraising for the project, and dPop! set the initial goal of raising $12,000, which will fill about 840 backpacks, according to Melissa Kennedy, Caleb’s mother. CAG Brands is also donating T-shirts and backpacks.
“I don’t think that anybody should go without school supplies,” Caleb said. “It makes me excited, and I would imagine it makes them excited.”
Caleb is no stranger to volunteering. He also collects care products annually, like tissue and hand sanitizer, and creates care packages that he and his mother hand out to homeless people in Detroit. Caleb said he has been handing out packages since he was 5 years old, and that is how he met the pastor of Beulah First Missionary Baptist Church. This year, he handed out about 150 care packages. Caleb also packs boxes for the church’s Feed My Sheep program, where about 150 families are given a week’s worth of food during Thanksgiving.
“I just want to help (those in need), and if I was in that position, I would want to be helped,” Caleb said.
When Beulah First Missionary hosted the back-to-school party, at least 200 students attended, and Caleb has been promoting the party through news outlets and by word of mouth to increase that number, Kennedy said.
In addition to receiving backpacks, Detroit students will receive free haircuts and manicures, and Caleb is planning on having cottoncandy and popcorn machines, a bounce house, games, and a rideable train.
Caleb’s charitable efforts are “humbling” to Kennedy, she said, because his passion to help people is “pure” and he never questions helping someone.
“It’s been really great to see him follow through and be brave,” she said. “We always try to make sure we get their names. … I like him to make those personal connections, and the relationships are really important. We still talk about the people that we’ve met.”
A school supply registry is available for people to purchase supplies at www.chalkfly.com/caleb whiteproject. People can also donate school supplies and send them to Clifford Smart Middle School, located at 8500 Commerce Road, Commerce Township, 48382. Supplies are needed by Aug. 15. For more information, contact Melissa Kennedy, Caleb’s mother, at (248) 513-1930.