Taken from his home at eight years old, Detective Tom Pyles knows what foster care is like from both sides. As a police officer, he is sometimes involved in the removal of kids from their homes. He knows what it’s like to be one of those kids. It was a school day when little Tom was approached by a social worker and a police officer, then taken to a foster home. During his first few days in foster care, his only belongings were the clothes he was wearing at school when picked up by the police officer.

His early life prompted Pyles, as an adult, to reach out and help these vulnerable children. In addition to launching The Blue Ribbon Project, Pyles has enlisted the help of his wife and other volunteers to join in the Backpacks of Love project. To date, Pyles and his wife have filled 20 backpacks with necessities — clothes, toothbrushes, etc. — as well as some fun items like stuffed animals.

The first two backpacks have been given to kids in Anne Arundel County. Annually, about 50 children are placed in foster care each year. The goal is to be sure that every child, even those removed under emergency situations in the middle of the night, receive a backpack that (minus the food) can sustain a child comfortably for the first 24 to 48 hours of their foster care.

The full story of the launching of Backpacks of Love may be read at the Capital Gazette.