In what would have been Elijah Hagger's last year in elementary school, his parents are keeping his memory alive.
"Elijah's Backpack Drive" has kicked off to provide at least 50 needy elementary students from any local school with a free backpack full of classroom supplies.
"We wanted to give back to the community to honor him," said his mother, Brandy Hagger. She and Elijah's father, Rashad Nicholas, are conducting the drive.
Nine-year-old Elijah was killed last December in a wrong-way car wreck south of Pueblo. His paternal grandmother also died in the crash.
Elijah loved Thomas the Tank Engine, bicycling and going to the skate park, Hagger said.
"He was a wonderful kid," she said. "He was like an old man in a little boy's body."
He would have been a fifth-grader next month at Mark Twain Elementary School in Colorado Springs School District 11.
Elijah started at Mark Twain as a half-day preschooler.
"It's a neighborhood school that means a lot to families," Hagger said. "They're definitely about community and family."
Several tragedies in close succession last school year compounded students' grief. A first-grader lost his mother in November; Elijah died in December; and in January, two students and their parents were killed in a murder-suicide case.
"The kids took it really hard," Hagger said.
Elijah's parents also held a book drive in March in their son's memory to benefit the school.
Hagger said Elijah's three siblings benefited from past school-supply drives.
"It feels good knowing there are people in our community that are in need and there are people reaching out and trying to give back," Hagger said.
Donations of elementary school supplies may be dropped off at these locations:
- A Touch of Perfection Barber Shop, 2710 S. Academy Blvd.
- Mi Gente Customs, 2495 Arlington Drive
- Xpressions Beauty Studio, 3239 S. Academy Blvd.
- Pens and Needles Tattoo Shop, 716 N. Weber St., and 3737 Drennan Road.
Backpacks will be given to a pre-approved list of recipients from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 12 at the gazebo at Prospect Lake, near the basketball courts.
Parents whose children need backpacks can call Hagger at 464-0939, or email her at email@example.com.