Paso Robles-based RE/MAX Parkside Real Estate held it's Up With Kids charity event on Saturday to give children the opportunity to purchase new school clothes, receive a backpack with school supplies, and take a ride in the tethered RE/MAX hot air balloon.
The program began two decades ago with the idea of helping families in need purchase school supplies. It started with 50 kids and has grown to around 135. Organizer and Realtor Fred Bruen said that over the years, 2,700 children have participated and over $250,000 has been raised for purchasing clothes and school supplies.
Fundraising efforts begin months in advance, with community sponsors making donations. All of the funds raised go to the children aged 5 to 12 who receive a $125 Target voucher to shop for school-related items.
Families who participate in Saturday's Target event are nominated through several different agencies, such as El Camino Homeless Organization, Paso Robles Joint Unified School District, and the Paso Robles Housing Authority.
"We love our families, I mean it's fun to watch the kids first thing in the morning they're a little apprehensive and so they don't know what's going to happen and what's going on, and by the end of the morning, they're walking out with their shoulders back, their head up smiling and laughing and having a great time, that is why I do this," said Bruen.
Before the pandemic, children were able to fill their own backpacks with the supplies they wanted with the help of a volunteer. Now, each child is able to be directly assisted by their parent.
The event started at 6 a.m. Saturday at the Paso Robles target, allowing for the children to purchase their items for a couple of hours before the store opened to the public.
The remaining funds from the event go to the organization's college scholarship program, which helps local high school graduates from Paso Robles and Atascadero.