They Got Your Back

10 South Bay students pool their resources to help the homeless over the holidays.

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  • Above:
    Finn, center with the Hermosa sweatshirt, surrounded by some good young men.

Sometimes the entrepreneurial spirit transcends dollars and cents and becomes an act of pure kindness and generosity. Such was the case when eighth-grader Finn Wills decided to recruit nine of his buddies to collect 100 backpacks for the homeless over the holiday season. When he learned there were 180 people in need, they matched the number. And by delivery time, they had collected 260. Here’s how it came together, in Finn’s own words.

What inspired you to start the backpack collection for the homeless?

Every year we do a charity, and my parents wanted me to pick the charity last Christmas and be more involved. After we talked about some options, I picked homelessness because it is a big problem. I didn’t know I would do backpacks until I talked to the shelter and found out what they needed. Backpacks seemed like a good idea because if you don’t have a place to live, you can keep all of your things together. All of the essential items we put inside are just basic items people need to take care of themselves.

When did you know you were going to need the help of some buddies to get the job done?

I was only going to ask a few of my friends to help collect backpacks because it is fun to work with friends and easier to get the job done as a group. After my mom talked to the director of the shelter and he said we needed at least 180 for all of the men staying there at Christmas, I was glad I had friends to help.

What were in the backpacks?

We put basic essential items like shampoo, soap, socks, hats, gloves, toothbrushes, toothpaste, blankets and sweatshirts.

What did you learn from your visit to Skid Row?

I learned a lot of things, but the thing that surprised me the most was how close our homes are to so much poverty. It took us 15 minutes to get downtown, and it is a whole different world. Some of the little kids were so happy to get a backpack, while me and my friends have so much.

What advice would you give others who want to make a difference in the world but aren’t sure how?

I would say ask your parents for advice. And once you decide to do something, ask friends and family for help.