Edwards and sponsor donate backpacks to Chicago area schools

NASCAR DRIVER CARL EDWARDS JOINS OFFICE DEPOT FOUNDATION TO DONATE 3,000 BACKPACKS IN CHICAGOLAND AREA 2008 National Backpack Program Helps Kids Get Ready to Succeed in School Frankfort, Ill., July 7, 2008 - Office Depot (NYSE:ODP), a leading...

2008 National Backpack Program Helps Kids Get Ready to Succeed in School

Frankfort, Ill., July 7, 2008 - Office Depot (NYSE:ODP), a leading global provider of office products and services, and The Office Depot Foundation announced today that Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Office Depot Ford in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and a former substitute teacher in his hometown of Columbia, Mo., will join the Foundation on Thursday, July 10, to donate 3,000 backpacks to non-profit organizations and schools in the Chicagoland area.

The donations will be made during a special "Backpack Donation Day" event beginning at 11 a.m. at the Office Depot store located at 11145 West Lincoln Highway in Frankfort, Ill. In addition to Edwards, special guests are scheduled to include State Representative Renee Kosel, Margie Almanza, Congressional Liaison for Illinois Congressman Jerry Weller and representatives of the Frankfort Chamber of Commerce.

A special Office Depot tractor-trailer from Feed The Children -- a national non-profit organization that is partnering with the Office Depot Foundation on this year's backpack program, will also be on view during the event.

Designated backpack recipients include:

* Chicago Public Schools

* Summit Hill School District 161

* PUSH for Excellence

* Chicago Youth Programs

* Casa Central

* Jane Addams Hull House Association

* Latino Organization of the Southwest

* Jewish Child & Family Services

* Chicago Communities In Schools

* Alternative Schools Network

Through this year's National Backpack Program, the Office Depot Foundation -- an independent foundation that serves as the primary charitable giving arm of Office Depot -- will donate 300,000 backpacks to a variety of non-profit organizations and schools across the United States and Canada. The recipients, in turn, will provide the backpacks to deserving children whom they serve through their programs or in their classrooms. Now in its eighth year, the National Backpack Program has provided nearly 1.8 million free backpacks to children since 2001.

"Education is the foundation for success, and I'm really excited to partner with Office Depot and the Office Depot Foundation for another season of backpack donations," said Edwards, who is currently competing in his fourth full season at NASCAR's highest level. "The new school year is like a new NASCAR season for me; it's a chance to start fresh, learn more and reach another set of goals.

"Every student deserves to return to school with the tools they need to succeed, and Office Depot is doing a great thing to make that happen for so many kids who might not otherwise have the necessary resources."

The 2008 backpacks come in five different color schemes, blending orange, blue, red, purple, green and -- for the first time -- pink. Designed primarily to meet the needs of students in grades K-5, the backpacks feature two front pockets and wide, padded straps for comfort and support. Each backpack contains a pencil pouch containing essential back-to-school items - a ruler, four crayons, a glue stick, a pen, a pencil, a pencil sharpener and an eraser.

Backpack recipients from previous years note that these donations make a signficant impact.

"We have thousands of clients who can't afford book bags and end up bringing their school supplies in a plastic grocery bag," said Mark Tisdahl, In-Kind Manager and Group Volunteer Coordinator for Chicago's Jane Addams Hull House Association. "The plastic grocery bag is ineffective in carrying school supplies and books, but it is also humiliating. Due to the Office Depot Foundation's generous donation, we have been able to end the humiliation of hundreds of students scared to go to school without a backpack."

Office Depot Foundation President Mary Wong says this is precisely the point of the National Backpack Program.

"By placing backpacks containing essential school supplies into the hands of children, we are giving them important tools they need to start school with confidence -- and to succeed throughout the year," Wong said. "The National Backpack Program is one of the key ways in which we seek to accomplish the Foundation's mission -- Listen Learn Care™ - and to achieve our strategic priority of helping children get ready for life and work."

-credit: odf

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Drivers Carl Edwards