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Reasons to smile: Central PA teen creates backpacks of hope for area students

With school back in session for almost a few weeks now for many area students, stories of help and hope from area youngsters continue to pop up across our area.

LYCOMING COUNTY, Pa. — There’s nothing like that feeling of new school clothes or a new, super cool backpack to start off the year. But for some families, it’s not always financially possible.  

That’s why Kylie Cendoma from Loyalsock Township in Lycoming County wanted to do something about it. 

"I thought it would be a really good idea, especially during the pandemic. Now that people like don't really have money, they don't have jobs and stuff," said Kylie. 

So the 17-year-old decided to rally her community in the Williamsport area to make sure dozens of kids would have what they need when heading back to class. 

"So, I got 96 total backpacks, and I used social media mostly in my school. I would post on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat. I got a lot of PayPal donations as well. Like just straight cash, and we use that cash. We went to Staples and Target, and we bought all the extra donations, like school supplies. And that's how we fill up the backpacks," added Kylie. 

So, what does she do with all 96 backpacks? Where does she take them?  

She said, "I took them to a YMCA in Williamsport and Dwell Orphan Care." 

Dwell Orphan Care is a nonprofit that helps support foster and adoptive families throughout Lycoming County.

"They told me that they had given a kid one of their backpacks recently, and they said that he had never had a backpack before in his life, and he was like, really grateful. He was really excited to get that," explained Kylie.

Much needed donated school supplies that also came with a handwritten card from Kylie. 

The whole project left her parents, Marc and Joyce Cendoma, beaming with pride.

"We're just extremely proud of how she took control of this and just, you know, just took off with family, friends, community members," said Joyce. "It was just overwhelming."

It all started with an idea, initially as part of Kylie’s senior project at Saint John Neumann Regional Academy in Williamsport.

But, it later became something so much more to this teenager from our area who realized her simple act of kindness would brighten the mornings of so many students she’s never met for so many school days to come.

For more feel good stories, check WNEP's Feel Good playlist on Youtube below.