Reed Marcum plans to hand out 5,000 free bags of school supplies at his annual giveaway — but this time, with some safety precautions.

The McAlester High School sophomore’s annual Bookbag Giveaway is set for 10 a.m. Aug. 8 and is usually held at the J Michael Miller Law Offices. Reed said anyone going to this year’s event will have to stay in their car in a new delivery format to limit contact during the coronavirus pandemic.

Reed said he believes taking precautions was vital for him to continue helping the community.

“No matter the hardship we’re going through, we’re going to be here to help and do as much for this community — no matter what,” Reed said. “Even in the hardest times — and this is probably the times people are going to need it most.”

Reed said canceling the event was never an option, but he wanted to ensure protocols were in place to keep public safety a top priority.

The car line for the event starts at the intersection of Main Street and Adams Avenue. Drivers must then continue east along Adams Avenue and turn right at Fifth Street, go through the roundabout on Washington Avenue and Fifth Street. Drivers must then turn right into the alley and exit on Third Street.

Volunteers will help direct drivers through the line, Reed said.

Reed said the goal is to continue helping the community start the school year on the right foot.

“I just want to try and give back to the community because, personally, I wouldn't be where I am today without them,” Reed said. “I couldn't be doing something without their donations, without their promotion and their help to support everything.

Reed said the first book bag giveaway event provided about 1,000 bags to students — but about 7,300 have been given away in its three years of existence.

He said the idea for the event came to him years ago after seeing fellow students not have enough school supplies to get through the rest of the year.

This year’s event will include about 5,000 bags — full of school supplies fitting the needs for all ages.

Bags for high school aged kids have markers, notebooks, folders, rulers and more, while bags for younger students include safety scissors, notebooks, and crayons.

Event organizers are still asking for donations to ensure they tech the goal of filling 5,000 bags — especially folders, glue sticks and big erasers.

Reed has also raised $33,000 to go toward the Hudson Strong Foundation, which goes to help families in the McAlester area impacted by pediatric cancer.

He started the annual bookbag and Christmas toy giveaway in events in 2015 and continued them in honor of Hudson Campbell, a 2-year-old Eufaula boy who died of pediatric cancer in 2018.

The projects grew to include MacKenna "Kenna" Faith Mattioda, who was born with a congenital heart disease, pulmonary valve atresia and pulmonary artery stenosis.

Reed is a 4-H members and is on the mock trial team, drama club, and plays football at McAlester High School.

He and his stepdad, J. Michael Miller, put together the giveaways and he hopes people continue donating at the J. Michael Miller Law Firm in McAlester.

Contact Adrian O'Hanlon III at aohanlon@mcalesternews.com

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