Bethany Marvin, an almost-kindergartner, inched past long tables stacked with backpacks of every color. She tried the zipper on one and peeked inside the pocket of another.

“I just want it to be great,” she said, spotting the perfect backpack: bright purple with black straps. “Oh, it even has a pair of blue scissors in it,” she squealed.

Bethany was one of more than 400 children who received backpacks stuffed with supplies Saturday at a school-supply giveaway sponsored by Omaha's Lord of Hosts Church.

“Activities like this show children that we want them to be successful,” said Barb Farho, mother of four school-age children and education initiatives director in the Mayor's Office. “It is important to communicate to our students why school is important. We can't assume they already know.”

Farho spoke to families and volunteers before the giveaway kicked off. She said the free school supplies were a service to the community.

“You need the tools to be successful,” she said. “It helps equalize the playing field. Now, who wants backpacks?”

Dozens of small hands popped up.

About 4,600 supplies — including markers, crayons, lined paper, notebooks, folders and scissors — were donated for the event. All materials were brand new.

“When you start getting into the hundreds and the thousands, it gets a little overwhelming,” organizer LaVonya Goodwin said. “There's a lot of excitement. Every kid needs a backpack, no question about it.”

The giveaway was open to all families, regardless of need.

Shonoah Dean, who will be a kindergartner at Cottonwood Elementary, cracked a huge smile as she nabbed a Hello Kitty backpack.

“She just loves Hello Kitty,” said her mom, Amber Dean. “They're so excited to head back to school. It's always a little sad when your last one goes.”

“But Mom,” Shonoah said, grabbing her hand. “I've got a backpack. I'm so ready now.”

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