Press Release: CITYPAK, High Sierra Mark 10-YEAR Anniversary with Events in LA, Toronto and New York
Non-Profit Approaching 100,000 Backpacks Provided to Homeless Families and Individuals
LOS ANGELES (Sept. 9, 2O22) – The CITYPAK Project, the non-profit initiative dedicated to providing custom-designed backpacks to the unhoused, is marking its 10-year anniversary with a series of events this fall that will improve the quality of life for families and individuals experiencing homelessness or housing transition. Beginning Sept. 9 and continuing through November, CITYPAK and travel gear manufacturer High Sierra, together with other partners, will host multiple backpack distributions in Los Angeles, Toronto and New York City.
Since being launched in 2012 by music industry executive Ron Kaplan in partnership with High Sierra, CITYPAK has provided over 93,000 specially designed backpacks to those without homes in more than 150 cities across the U.S. and around the world. This year alone, PAKs have already been distributed in 29 American cities and two cities in Canada. In 2022, for the fourth consecutive year, CITYPAK partnered with Islamic Relief USA, bringing the total number of CITYPAKs distributed nationwide at IRUSA’s “Day of Dignity” events to nearly 20,000. CITYPAK also expanded its focus this year to include disaster relief, partnering with The Salvation Army’s International Emergency Services department to provide 1000 CITYPAKs to assist Ukrainian refugees in Poland.
“We are proud and humbled to be celebrating 10 years of CITYPAK. But a milestone is never truly reached in the midst of a rising wealth gap, a national mental health crisis, a growing level of violence and crime affecting the unhoused, and humanitarian disasters around the world,” said Kaplan. “We will continue to provide custom-made backpacks to those experiencing homelessness or in housing transition - to help them secure and protect their personal belongings, enhance mobility, and hopefully improve their overall quality of life-even just a little bit-under difficult circumstances.”
On Friday, Sept. 9 in Los Angeles, CITYPAK will join with giving partners old and new for “Pop-Up Shopping & Karaoke with Safe Place for Youth, VINCINT, Bombas, CITYPAK & The Ally Coalition.” The event takes place from 2 p.m.-4:15 p.m. PT at Safe Place for Youth (SPY) Access Center, located at 340 Sunset Ave. in Venice. Collaborating with The Ally Coalition and Bombas, the apparel brand with a mission to help those in need, the event will include distribution of new, unworn clothes and CITYPAK backpacks to youths serviced by SPY, and will feature karaoke and a performance with special musical guests.
On Oct. 16, CITYPAK’s 10th anniversary initiative continues with a distribution event in Toronto. Homeless Connect Toronto will host the occasion at Mattamy Athletic Centre (former Maple Leaf Gardens - time TBD), located at 50 Carlton St, where 700 CITYPAK backpacks will be provided to those in need. Additional distributions this fall will include collaborations with Los Angeles giving partners LA LGBT Center and My Friend’s Place, and in New York City with The Bowery Mission, City Relief, Shower Power and The Salvation Army | Greater New York Division. Event details will be announced soon.
The inspiration for CITYPAK came from Kaplan’s desire to make life a little easier for those living on the streets of his native Chicago. Ten years ago he partnered with High Sierra, a division of Samsonite, to design and produce a versatile, high-quality backpack to meet the unique needs of the homeless. Including an integrated poncho, reflectors, anti-theft loops and special pockets to protect personal items from the elements, the innovative packs provide added safety, security and mobility for the user. While High Sierra produces the packs at a special low cost, CITYPAK must raise money through donations to cover production. The SBK Foundation, founded by the Kaplan family, has provided program funding along with other philanthropic institutions, private donors and individuals.
“High Sierra is proud to be the manufacturing partner for the CITYPAK Project, and even more pleased to be part of this community dedicated to helping others in need,” said David Oksman, Vice President Marketing & Ecommerce Samsonite. “We see the impact that these backpacks make, and we hope to continue making a difference with CITYPAK for another 10 years and beyond.”
As the CITYPAK Project enters its second decade, Kaplan is focused on continuing to expand the footprint for the non-profit, bringing the unique benefits of custom-designed backpacks to disenfranchised, displaced and unhoused individuals across the U.S. and around the world. “Our focus is to assist as many people as we can, regardless of who they are, what they look like or where they come from,” he said. “We want to thank everyone who has helped along the way, from our corporate and community partners to all the individual donors, and let them know they are changing lives for the better, one backpack at a time.”
About the CITYPAK Project
The CITYPAK Project, an initiative of the Selma Breskin Kaplan Foundation, was founded by Chicago businessman and philanthropist Ron Kaplan. CITYPAK has partnered with international adventure travel gear manufacturer High Sierra to provide safe, convenient and versatile backpacks built for life on the street and the specific needs of the homeless. The donor-funded non-profit distributes backpacks through community-centered service organizations throughout the U.S. and around the world. www.citypak.org
About High Sierra
A division of Samsonite LLC, High Sierra designs feature-rich, versatile lifestyle bags for adventurers everywhere. Founded in 1978, High Sierra creates durable, affordable products with distinctive details. In 2012, High Sierra formed a design partnership with the Chicago-based CITYPAK Project [501(c)(3)] to create purposeful, utilitarian backpacks for the homeless. www.highsierra.com
About SBK Foundation
Founded by the family of Ron Kaplan, music industry professional and philanthropist, the SBK Foundation (Selma Breskin Kaplan Foundation) is a benefactor to uplifting organizations including the CITYPAK Project, CYCLE Kids, Kiss The Ground, L39ion, Urban Voices Project, Backline, and others.
The CITYPAK Project strives for dignity in homelessness through the distribution of backpacks specifically designed for life on the streets. CYCLE Kids is committed to working with schools in underserved diverse communities to ensure the basic rights of children to a physically and emotionally healthy start in life. Kiss The Ground’s mission is to awaken people to the possibilities of regenerative agriculture. L39ion was created to advance the sport of cycling, eliminate boundaries, and promote diversity, representation and inclusion. Urban Voices Project amplifies artistic expression to improve well-being, strengthen networks and inspire individuals to be their own best advocates. In 2023, look for SBK and Backline, a music industry health and wellness resource hub, to unveil the Take.Care Wellness Kit program - which will provide products and resources for touring musicians and crew experiencing mental health challenges. The common thread between each of the organizations SBK supports? All of these organizations are doing inspirational work, and SBK Foundation is committed to supporting inspiring causes for a better world.
About Islamic Relief USA
Founded in California in 1993, Islamic Relief USA provides relief and development in a dignified manner regardless of gender, race, or religion, and works to empower individuals in their communities and give them a voice in the world. CITYPAK is proud to partner with IRUSA, Day of Dignity, and its national communities in engaging with those in need of neighborly assistance. Visit www.irusa.org.
About Safe Place for Youth
Safe Place for Youth’s Mission is to empower young people experiencing homelessness to thrive by providing lasting, community-driven solutions that address racial and social inequity. SPY was founded in 2011 by a group of dedicated volunteers. Today, it is the leading service provider for youth experiencing or at risk of homelessness in West Los Angeles. Each year, SPY provides life-saving support to over 1,000 young people ages 12-25. SPY’s robust wraparound services address the unique needs of this population through street outreach, housing programs, access to basic needs, case management, counseling, support with health and wellness, education and employment support, and more. All programming is designed with the goal of providing critical resources in a low-barrier and nonjudgemental environment while empowering youth to take control of their lives. SPY operates four types of housing programs including bridge housing, transitional housing, housing for pregnant and parenting youth, and Host Home where members of the community open up extra space in their home to a youth for 6 months. safeplaceforyouth.org
Bombas is a comfort-focused, basics apparel brand with a mission to help those in need. The company was originally founded in 2013 because socks are the #1 most requested clothing item at homeless shelters. Underwear and t-shirts are #2 and #3 respectively. While the brand started with and is known for its extremely comfortable socks, Bombas used its expertise in comfort to launch into apparel with t-shirts in 2019 and most recently, underwear in 2021. For every item purchased, a specially-designed item is donated to someone experiencing homelessness. To date, Bombas has donated more than 75 million items to those who are at risk of experiencing or currently experiencing homelessness. www.bombas.com
The Ally Coalition
The Ally Coalition provides critical support for grassroots non-profit organizations dedicated to bettering the lives of LGBTQ+ youth. Learn more at www.theallycoalition.org.