Local firefighters help students get back to school

WASHINGTON — With school set to return in a little more than a week in Northern Virginia, local firefighters and police are helping children get ready for the big first day of school.

Off-duty firefighters from Fairfax, Alexandria and others handed out 500 to 600 backpacks filled with supplies at the Charles Houston Recreation Center in Alexandria for children in need.

“It actually makes me feel good that everyone is coming out here to do these things,” says Jerome Stitch, who’s going to the sixth grade.

He says he’s happy with his new backpack, which has deep pockets for all of his heavy books.

The children were also able to get new haircuts for that important first day back to school.

“We’re giving them free haircuts,” says Captain Willie Bailey with Fairfax County Fire and Rescue. “We’ve got local barbers volunteering their time. We have a couple of beauticians here for the little girls’ hair.”

Bailey has been behind this back-to-school event in Alexandria for the last four to five years; for the last 13 to 14 years, he’s been organizing the event at different locations in Northern Virginia.

Sunday’s back to school event was being held in memory of two young people — Cameron Evans and Julian Dawkins — who died last year. Evans was a young man who his parents say was all about giving back to anyone in need. Last year, he was a volunteer at the event.

Captain Bailey says he coached Dawkins, who grew up in Alexandria, for six to seven years in different sports.

“They were good kids,” Bailey says. “They were in the community doing a lot of good things. Cameron was known for taking off his shoes and giving them to the homeless.”

Bailey says the need in the community seems to be greater than ever. He says this all began about 14 years ago by helping about 50 kids and it has blossomed into helping thousands of kids a year throughout the Metro D.C. area.

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