Thousands of backpacks are being given to families as part of an annual tradition for a local nonprofit, this time with new pandemic rules.

There are many things people can't control about 2020. Despite this, United Way of Cass-Clay is making sure their annual tradition of giving doesn't stop, crossing off a shopping list for parents getting their children ready for school.

The Thursday, Aug. 13, event at Aurora Elementary in West Fargo helped connect 400 families with backpacks full of school supplies.

"It gives people a little bit of confidence about what's going on right now," said West Fargo parent Alakiir Nhial.

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Thursday's event was one of nine backpack distributions in the Fargo-Moorhead area this month.

The program is normally held at the FargoDome, but due to the pandemic it became a drive-thru event.

Volunteers distributed a collection of more than 6,000 backpacks filled with back-to-school essentials.

"So many of our families are impacted, and it puts every child on an equal playing field when they come to school that first day," said West Fargo Superintendent Beth Slette.

Slette said events like these are crucial, since every year there are families who might not be able to afford school supplies. With the economic turmoil brought on by the pandemic, the event has become even more important.

"The relief on the parents' faces, they say, 'Oh, you have one for them, this is so great.' It's just a win-win for everybody: the schools, the children, everyone. The staff, they know that their children have what they need," Slette said.

For families like Nhial's, it means one less thing to worry about.

"The COVID-19 is actually affecting a lot of us, but we're coming out to come and get backpacks; it gives us hope that we're going to get through this," Nhial said.

The hope Nhial spoke of won't stop at Aurora Elementary, since there are six more distribution events next week. To find out when and where the next backpack giveaway will be, visit www.unitedwaycassclay.org.