Panthers start school year with rally and backpack delivery

Panthers start the school year with a rally of encouragement, backpacks gifts

CHARLOTTE – On Wednesday, the Panthers kicked off the new school year with much enthusiasm, backpacks full of school supplies and 450 jubilant children at Hickory Grove Elementary School.

An energetic rally at Charlotte Elementary School capped off a backpack and school supply distribution program, which delivered 25,000 backpacks and school supplies to high-need school districts in North Carolina and South Carolina.

The David and Nicole Tepper Foundation, Carolina Panthers Charities, Bank of America and the John M. Belk Endowment partnered in the effort, while Classroom Central coordinated distribution to multiple schools.

“It’s huge,” said Hickory Grove Principal Matthew Bower. “Not just backpacks, but they had supplies inside. That all of our kids were able to start the school year with a backpack is amazing… On the first day, all the kids came to school with a backpack, so that’s great.”

Elementary students dressed in Panthers t-shirts swung blue pom-poms to welcome Sir Purr, the TopCats, owner Nicole Tepper and Panthers president Kristi Coleman.

“(There are) so many emotions,” Tepper said. “I just think about being a kid, getting that backpack and having the confidence to be successful.”

Each student received a backpack during the school’s open house. Some students had already written their names on the black bags, filled with various classroom essentials for the upcoming school year, including pencils, composition notebooks, crayons, markers and glue sticks.

Tepper smiled and hugged the children as she walked the blue carpet to offer words of encouragement to students before the school year.

“It’s important to the Panthers (and) to our family,” Tepper said. “Knowing my mother-in-law was a teacher, Dave’s daughter Randi was a teacher, education is very important to us. Giving back in this capacity and seeing smiles is very, very, very important. And if it makes you want to do more.”

Students also heard encouraging messages about the importance of exercise, sleep, nutrition, and reading to kick off the new school year.

On the day of the Panthers game, DJ Vinny Esposito wowed the crowd before the rally, which included a team obstacle course, Panthers-themed prizes, music, cheers and confetti.

“The kids were just excited,” Bower said. “It’s great. It gets everyone excited about the school year.”

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

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