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Event helps those who need help get school supplies

Jason Lee helps his daughter, Sheyla, 12, with the backback she received, along with supplies, at the Back2School event in Arlington. Lee has terminal Crohn
Jason Lee helps his daughter, Sheyla, 12, with the backback she received, along with supplies, at the Back2School event in Arlington. Lee has terminal Crohn's disease, and the event helps those who are struggling or are in need.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

ARLINGTON — Jason Lee has been diagnosed with Crohn's disease since he was 19, but that diagnosis turned terminal three years ago.

For all three of those years, he and his daughter, Sheyla, who turns 12 Aug. 26 and will attend sixth grade at Post Middle School, have come to the Back2School Rally for Arlington, Lakewood and Darrington K-12 students.

"There's no date or time for me, but every bit of community outreach has helped out our family," Lee said. "This allows my daughter to get a good start to the school year in spite of my disability."

Other folks in need also were helped.

Melissa Beamer and Erin Whitemarsh waited in line for concessions even after their kids had picked up their backpacks.

"We just moved here from Stanwood, so this is our first full year in the Arlington School District," said Beamer, whose four children range from ages 7 to 17. "We're living off Social Security, so I have no idea how we'd get school supplies, since they're very expensive. I love Arlington. There's a lot here for families."

"With the economy the way it still is, I'd be doing a whole lot of bargain-shopping at dollar stores, just to make ends meet," said Whitemarsh, whose children are entering fifth grade and preschool.

The playgrounds of Presidents Elementary again came alive with community booths and the sounds of children for this year's rally Aug. 17. Even as kids ate hot dogs and popsicles, browsed through books and received immunizations, volunteers aimed to prepare students for the start of school, by dispensing free backpacks filled with classroom supplies.

Event coordinator Brianna Johnson, the children's pastor at the Arlington Assembly of God Church, reported that 419 students pre-registered, but everyone received a backpack with supplies.

"Not everyone who registered showed up, and we had more backpacks than kids who registered, so we were able to serve all the walk-ins as well," said Johnson, who estimated that each backpack with supplies cost $10.

Johnson recalled serving at least 400 children last year, and deemed the past two years the most well-attended in the nearly half-dozen years that the rally has been held in Arlington.

"We also had more booths, offering face-painting and popcorn," Johnson said. "They were all free of charge, except for the sno-cones, and that money went toward the costs of next year's rally."

Staff of the Community Health Centers of Snohomish County's Arlington branch put in their first appearance at the rally, immunizing 14 children.

Johnson credited a host of churches, businesses and other local organizations with making the rally possible.

"I love to see the community come together like this," Johnson said. "I hope this will help these kids start the school year, not with a sense of dread, but with excitement and pride."
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