340,000 AND COUNTING

The Colts traveled to Purdue University on Sunday to kick off a campus-wide book drive that will help them reach their goal of 350,000 books for foster youth through the Books for Youth initiative.

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Colts, Department of Child Services Nearing Goal of 350,000 BooksINDIANAPOLIS – Although Purdue University's residence halls are typically filled with college-age students, Sunday, March 8, proved to be an exception. At 3 p.m., more than 100 foster youth and their families filed into the main level of Tarkington Hall to celebrate the kickoff of a campus-wide book drive, presented by the Purdue Mortar Board, benefiting the Books for Youth program.

Established in 2006, Books for Youth was created by the Indianapolis Colts and Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) to provide each of the 14,000 foster children in the State of Indiana with a backpack filled with 25 books. To date, the Colts and DCS have collected more than 340,000 books with the help of schools, Colts fans, community organizations and numerous businesses across Indiana. A total of 350,000 books are needed to reach every foster child.

Earlier this year, the Purdue Mortar Board decided to help the Colts and DCS reach their goal by launching a campus-wide book drive during the months of March and April. With the help of the Tippecanoe County DCS office and numerous volunteers, they launched the campaign on March 8, with a carnival for foster children in that region, many of which will be recipients of Books for Youth backpacks in the coming months.

Sunday's event began with a special reading of Dr. Seuss' classic, The Sneetches, followed by a professional storyteller from Lafayette, Ind. After the stories, it was time for the youngsters to have some fun as they headed into a room filled with numerous carnival games. The Mortar Board students put together a plethora of fun activities, including a cake walk, bingo, clowns, football toss and more. A few special guests from the Indianapolis Colts also stopped by to greet the children, including Blue, Colts Cheerleaders and the Lombardi Trophy from the Colts 2006 Super Bowl victory.

The carnival concluded with a visit from the Columbian Park Zoo, which gave the foster children an opportunity to see a sloth and learn all about these unique creatures. Judge James Payne, director of the Indiana Department of Child Services, also presented an Award of Excellence to Sarah Sailors from the regional DCS office and Kristen Bechtel of the Purdue Mortar Board for their contributions to the event and the Books for Youth campaign.

As the children packed up their bags and headed out for the afternoon, Tarkington Hall was quickly transformed back into a typical college campus dormitory. However, the smiles and laughter of each of the foster youth remained in the minds and hearts of the volunteers, Mortar Board members and DCS employees.

The Purdue Mortar Board book drive will continue through April 15, 2009. If you would like to support Books for Youth in your area, contact your local Department of Child Services office or visit http://www.in.gov/dcs/2342.htm.

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