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Clinton Township

Eagle Scout conducting backpack project to help foster children

February 5, 2014

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Clinton Township resident David Ruffner inserts a hair brush into a backpack as part of his Eagle Scout project. Ruffner, 17, started Backpacks for a Brighter Tomorrow, an initiative to help Macomb County foster children receive the amenities they need.

CLINTON TOWNSHIP — David Ruffner is doing his best to lend a helping hand, one backpack at a time.

Ruffner, a Clinton Township resident, is an Eagle Scout candidate as part of Troop 518. The 17-year-old home-schooled senior wanted his Eagle Scout project to do good and offer something children might not otherwise have had in their lives — things that other people might take for granted on a daily basis.

Thus, he started Backpacks for a Brighter Tomorrow. The initiative, which has a Facebook page of the same name along with a website, was the result of Ruffner’s desire to help alleviate pain for foster children. For someone who has two adopted sisters, he understands the need to help others because he lives with it every day.

“The best way to put it is pretty simple: the only way I can describe it is to help someone,” he said. “I want to help somebody, and it gives me satisfaction of knowing they’ll be a little better off. I can’t fix all their problems, but it just gives me satisfaction that I can make a little bit of a difference.

“I have two adopted sisters and have had other foster kids in our home, and have heard so many other stories about kids with nothing but a garbage bag and it just kind of hit me.”

The goal is straightforward: raise enough funds for a minimum of 50 backpacks — at least 25 backpacks for boys and girls each — that contain various items, including sanitary items (soap, shampoo, hair brushes, deodorant) school supplies (pens, spiral notebooks), and pairs of socks and packs of gum.

He debated handing out duffle bags but figured that backpacks would make more sense because they would be easier to carry.

Michigan’s Department of Human Services says that at any given time, approximately 14,000 foster children are in foster care. Ruffner wanted to focus on the kids ages 12-17.

He is about at the halfway point of his project, which ends in June. He expects the 50 backpacks to be raised at some point in April. He has put up donation boxes in local VFW and American Legion halls, asking for donations for items that come inside the backpacks. As donations come in, people will help stuff backpacks with items to later be distributed.

Ruffner’s desire to help those less fortunate than he is something he believes in deeply, and his own family life has contributed to a strong portion of that attitude.

“It’s taught me to be yourself and to figure out who you are — to open yourself to the world around you,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be huge projects. Could be something like opening a door for an elderly woman going into a bank. (Just) being aware of what’s going on around you.”

By Jan. 28, Ruffner had already raised $800. To contribute toward his cause, visit his website at www.backpacksforabrighter and donate through PayPal.

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