"It's pretty much just a one stop program," said BGAKAC co-director Terry Terrell. "[At risk students] get just about everything they need to get started back to school on the right foot."
Registration begins July 9 for the July 30 event where students will receive dental, hearing and vision screenings along with haircuts, backpacks, school supplies, a pair of pants, a shirt and a sack lunch at one of three locations -- Adairsville High School, Cartersville Civic Center or Woodland High School.
Terrell explained the program is designed for students who might not otherwise have access to these screenings or materials. He said students eligible for the program often receive free or reduced lunch and are notified through the Summer Feeding Program or other school programs.
"We try to specify what [BGAKAC] is all about ... and hopefully we're going to reach the kids that are at risk," Terrell said. "We're certainly not going to turn away any of them, but we want it to be clear that the program is not open for just anybody to come and get a free book bag and school supplies, or obviously everybody in the county would be lined up."
He said the program began about 15 years ago in Austell, but the success of the program encouraged other counties across the state to participate.
About four years ago, Terrell's son, Miles Terrell, helped spearhead the local movement as an Eagle Scout project, but last year the program came to fruition as BGAKAC.
Terrell said financial donations go to Linda Walker at the Bartow County Family Collaborative.
"From there we use that money to purchase the school supplies, the book bags and the clothing," Terrell said. "Typically, it runs for all these services, we think the kids get about $200 worth of goods and services. It costs us about $25 per child, and that's due to all the volunteers we have."
Terrell said the program is successful due to donations and volunteers. He said volunteers range from those helping to organize businesses, colleges and medical and civic organizations who donate their time and services.
"Last year I think we had upwards to 200 volunteers," Terrell said, "and we had about 20 different hairdressers just at the Cartersville site alone."
The July 9 registration will be from 9 a.m. to noon at each of the three distribution sites.
"It's a chance," Terrell said. "It's just one opportunity that we can reach out to these kids to make a difference. It's not going to change everything about them, it's not going to save the world, but it's exactly what the program says, it's give a kid a chance and that's what we're doing."
The Rev. Julie Jensen serves as associate pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Cartersville and has helped BGAKAC this year with planning and fundraising.
"One of the things I've been doing is working with our congregation on some fundraising and doing a school supply drive here at the church," Jensen said. "We had our vacation bible school program donate school supplies, and so every day for each of the different days during VBS they donated a different supply item, and then we set up bulletin boards throughout the church that had apples on them and each apple was labeled as a supply. So the idea was congregation members would take an apple that said 'pencils' on it and would bring in a pack of pencils."
Jensen said BGAKAC helps to "level the playing field" for students who might otherwise have difficulties fitting in with their peers.
"One of the reasons this program speaks to me is for kids to be able to go to school with a new backpack, with new pencils, new paper and a new shirt and pair of pants, it brings a little bit of excitement to the school year," Jensen said, "... and it takes away a little bit of the stigma of being 'one of the kids who doesn't have enough' and your peers aren't necessarily looking at you differently."
Jensen added, "I was fortunate to have a chance when I went to school ... and if we can [provide opportunities] so that all [students] have to worry about on the first day of school is going to learn, that's a great gift we can give them."