Backpacks donated by Park City finally make it to Fiji school | ParkRecord.com

Backpacks donated by Park City finally make it to Fiji school

Henderson thankful for generosity

A shipment of 130 donated backpacks from Park City finally made it to a group of students in Fiji after they were collected nearly 15 months ago.

The project, which was spearheaded by Mike Henderson and his wife Rena Jordan, started in November 2015, after the couple returned from a stay at the Koro Sun Resort in Fiji.

The resort had facilitated a tour of the Nagigi Primary School, located 30 miles away in a town called Savusavu.

"We took over some school supplies at that time and saw that the students needed backpacks," said Henderson, the event director for Ragnar Events, LLC.

When he and Jordan — who is the former district director for Basin Recreation, returned to Park City — they started a backpack drive.

Donations came from Deer Valley, Park City Mountain and Park City residents.

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"On behalf of Rena and myself, I want to say thank you because they all really went all out for donations," Henderson said. "And Basin Recreation stepped up and allowed us to use their fieldhouse for backpack drop-offs."

The snag came when Henderson tried to find a way to ship the backpacks to Fiji.

"I went to FedEx and UPS and other major carriers and basically none of them were interested in talking with me," he said.

Henderson then approached some private firms located throughout the United States that ship items to Fiji and other islands in the area.

"They showed me how much it would take and we were talking thousands of dollars," Henderson said. "I thought this would be the easy part, you know? I hoped someone would have a philanthropic heart and would find a way to squeeze them into little corners here and there. But it was a nightmare."

At one point, Henderson thought about hosting a fundraiser.

"I tossed around the idea of hosting a golf marathon or something like that," he said.

While he was thinking about fundraisers, he called the Koro Sun Resort to tell them what was going on.

"They told me that they receive crates with various materials and supplies for the resort that arrive on a boat from Long Beach California a couple of times a year," Henderson said. "They told me if I could get my boxes to L.A., then they would get them on a ship."

Henderson boxed the backpacks and shipped them to L.A. last summer.

"The backpacks then went 'snail sail' and reached Fiji a month ago," he said. "It took three months to sail to Fiji, but it all worked out."

Henderson said even if the resort didn't tell him about the boat, he would have continued to find a solution.

"I felt a responsibility because all of these people had donated the backpacks and I wasn't willing to have them sit in a box in my garage," he said.

Henderson said he and Jordan are grateful for the donations.

"This exemplifies the generosity of this town," he said. "You can see just how charitable the residents are because there are so many nonprofits and good causes that are here.

"They could have easily said, 'Oh, no. Not another cause,' but they didn't," Henderson said. "They put their hands in the pockets and went to look in their closets for backpacks.
They helped improve the lives of these kids in a place that is about as far away from us as you can imagine."