Radford family answers the call to help feed children across the community

First Lady Marisela Rosas Hemphill, Ph.D., addresses volunteers at the fourth annual Radford Gives Back ceremony and packing event.

Radford University’s Student Recreation and Wellness Center quickly filled last week with hundreds of volunteers eager to make a meaningful impact on the lives of local schoolchildren.

The fourth annual Radford Gives Back canned food drive began October 8, 2019 and culminated the following day with a special ceremony and large-scale food packing event attended by a diverse mix of students, faculty, staff and community members.

Among the volunteers were the three founders of Bobcat Backpacks, the local nonprofit that Radford Gives Back supports. Alumnae Daniela Brunner ’98, Jane Fisher ’94, M.S. ’00 and Jenny Riffe, M.S.W. ’03, established the organization in 2016 as an effort to feed students who might go hungry on the weekends. Each week, the women organize a packing event at The Presbyterian Church of Radford on West Main Street where volunteers fill plastic bags with donated non-perishable meals and snacks. The bags are delivered to local schools and distributed amongst 180 children, to date, on a regular basis.

In a moving testimony, Brunner shared with Radford Gives Back volunteers how much the weekly bags mean to the children and their families.

“They are always so eager and happy to get their bags at school every week. Their smiles are so big,” Brunner said. “We are so grateful to Radford University for making Radford Gives Back such a huge success every year. It means the world to us and our community.”

Brunner invited the entire campus community to upcoming packing nights and encouraged them to find additional ways to get involved in the lives of local schoolchildren.

First Lady Marisela Rosas Hemphill, Ph.D., also addressed attendees and thanked them for their commitment to such an important cause. The First Lady, along with Radford University President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D., established the partnership with Bobcat Backpacks as part of President Hemphill’s Inauguration celebration in 2016. Since then, Radford Gives Back has become a signature volunteer experience for Highlanders.


Throughout the two-day food drive, dozens of student, faculty and staff volunteers collected and organized more than 15,000 donated items. These items will help replenish about a fourth of Bobcat Backpack’s annual needs.

Among the volunteers were members of the Radford Gives Back Planning Committee.

“Radford University is committed to giving back to our community, and the annual Radford Gives Back event is one of the many ways that our students, alumni, faculty, staff and administrators confirms this pledge,” said administrative and professional faculty representative to the committee Teresa Dickens, assistant director in the Center for Career and Talent Development.

Following the evening ceremony, the Highlander family collectively packed 300 bags for Bobcat Backpacks as they made their way around the Student Recreation and Wellness Center’s Multipurpose Activity Court. Different stations were stocked with peanut butter, canned fruits and vegetables, ravioli and various snacks.

“My experience with Radford Gives Back was nothing short of incredible. To see the students, faculty and staff interact in such a way to benefit those behind closed doors was powerful,” said student volunteer Desirae Booth, a junior sociology major and secretary of the Sociology Club. “The most fulfilling part about being a Radford Highlander is giving back to our community. Volunteer events, like Radford Gives Back, enrich our college experience. No matter how small your role may be, there is always an opportunity to make a difference.”

Oct 17, 2019
Mary Hardbarger
(540) 831-5150