YMCA Bright Beginnings

The YMCA Bright Beginnings program ensures children in our community are prepared and confident for the school year by providing them with a backpack, school supplies, a hygiene bag, and brand new winter warm up clothing items.

YMCA Bright Beginnings

Overview of the 2021 Program

YMCA Bright Beginnings ensures that all children are given the necessary tools to prepare for learning and a brand new school year.

Through the program, children will receive a backpack with school supplies, a hygiene bag, and a tote of winter clothing items to help prepare them for a great school year. In order for a child to participate in Bright Beginnings, they must first qualify for the program. Participants will be invited to attend a Student Store at their local YMCA where they will shop for free to collect new items before heading back to school.

For more information on qualification requirements please contact Liz Harris, Director of Volunteer and Community Engagement, at harrisl@ymcarichmond.org.

Make a difference in your community and help prepare a child for success in school. Caring adult volunteers are needed for a variety of roles to help make YMCA Bright Beginnings a success. Roles can include in-person opportunities such as assisting at a YMCA shopping event or opportunities at home such as donating backpacks or hygiene items to our participants.

Volunteer Opportunities Include:

  • Making a donation – $150 will cover the cost of one participant
  • Donate hygiene items or run a hygiene kit drive in your work or neighborhood (list is below)
  • Donating school supplies and new book bags (list is below)

For more information, email Liz Harris, Director of Volunteer Engagement.


The Y makes strengthening our communities our cause. We strongly believe that children who have the necessities they need to succeed can focus on learning and thriving in a new school year. Good hygiene is critical in this time of recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in vulnerable communities. With your help, we can ensure the children in our Richmond communities are equipped with what they need for a healthy school year. 

Here’s How it Works 

Below are the items we will be giving students in August, as well as a backpack, school supplies, and new clothes for the school year.  

Choose at least 5 of the items below to include in our kit. We would love if you would consider donating the full kit. 

Please mail or drop-off these items to your local Richmond YMCA during any hours in which that branch is open. Please place these items in either one or two watertight clear gallon-size zipper lock bags. Donations will be accepted through August 14, 2020. Thank you so much for your donation! 

The Bright Beginnings program welcomes a diverse variety of people from varying backgrounds, with different cultures, customs and traditions. When buying personal hygiene products, please consider multicultural products. Be on the lookout for skin and hair care products that are specially formulated for Black hair. A few great product lines include Cantu, Shea Moisture, Carol’s Daughter, Miss Jessie’s, Camilla Rose and more. 

  • Toothbrush and toothpaste (full-size) 
  • Band Aids (one box) 
  • Comb or brush 
  • Deodorant 
  • Soap (bar soap) 
  • Full-size conditioner 
  • Full-size shampoo 
  • Hand sanitizer (full-size) 

Questions? Contact Liz Harris at harrisL@ymcarichmond.org to discuss how you can give back and support our youngest neighbors.

Become a Backpack Buddy  

Thanks to your donations, more than 2,000 children will return to school this fall with new clothes, backpacks, and the supplies they need to succeed.

2 Options

  1. To fill a backpack for a child in your community, visit your local YMCA and pick up a YMCA Bright Beginnings Backpack Buddy promise tag
  2. Purchase a backpack, fill it with school supplies from the list below and drop it off at your local YMCA.

The YMCA of Greater Richmond will ensure your backpack reaches a child where the need is greatest.  Find the YMCA nearest you.

The list below is a generic school supply list. Actual school supply lists will vary by school and grade. The following items are found most commonly on school supply lists: 

Backpack – the sturdier the better!
Colored pencils
Crayons (24 count)
4 glue sticks
Magic markers (washable, primary colors)
2 marble composition books
Pencil pouch
2 packs, No. 2 pencils (not mechanical)
Black Sharpies
Scissor, 5”
2 spiral notebooks (wide-ruled)
Dry-Erase Markers
1 pack, blue or black pens

1 box of tissues
1 box of storage bags (quart or gallon)
Reusable water bottle
Individual White Board
1 jump drive
1 hand sanitizer
Post-it Notes
3-ring binder (1½”)
1 pack, filler paper (wide-ruled)
12-inch ruler
2 erasers, large
3 highlighters

Thank you for being a Backpack Buddy! 

What Bright Beginning Means

“Several years ago our family was fortunate enough to be recommended to participate in this amazing program. During a period when money was tight in our household not only did Bright Beginnings help us by alleviating some of the financial stress associated with the beginning of a new school year, but they also gave our children an opportunity to get excited about going back to school. We are so blessed to have a program like this available to us, and I will always be grateful to the many people within our community who willingly volunteer their time and money each year to make this happen.”

-Shannon, former YMCA Bright Beginnings participant

You can help put a child on the path to success. A $150 contribution underwrites the cost of one child. When you donate, you can designate your contribution to a specific branch that serves students in your area. Don’t forget to select Bright Beginnings.


Y Stories

Meet Wanda and Rickey

Wanda and Rickey received helped through Bright Beginnings when they needed it. Now, they give back to those in need.

Wanda and Rickey found Bright Beginnings support in the moment they needed it.  Years later, they choose to pay it forward and help other families with back to school supplies.

See Their Story.