For almost 30 years, The Banquet makes sure students of all grade levels are ready for the school year, having backpacks and school supplies ready to be handed out. On Saturday, thousands of kids and their parents received the much-needed help before the first bell rings.
At 9:00 AM, a middle school gym is arguably the busiest spot in Sioux Falls because of Project S.O.S.
"We have lots of children, their families, they're here to receive free school supplies," special events director for The Banquet said.
Even before the doors opened, the line wraps around the entire building, everyone showing up for a chance to get a backpack of their own.
The start of Project S.O.S goes back to one visitor to The Banquet 27 years ago.
"She was sobbing as she came to eat and she said 'If I can't afford to feed my children, how am I ever going to provide school supplies for them,'" Shields said.
From that moment, kids that needed supplies are able to get them.
Jared Ransom: "What was your favorite part of the event?"
Breanna and Jason Rieger: "Getting to pick a new backpack, yeah."
Salim Mohamad: "I saw this one and I wanted to take it."
Last year at this event, 6,500 backpacks were given to people who walked in the door. Yet it is not about the numbers. It is about the smile on each kids face as they pick the backpack of their choice.
"It's like Christmas for them. They see those bags, they have smiles on their faces, they wait in line for a couple of hours and that's difficult, but once they head out the door and they have what they need, everyone is happy," Shields said.
It is a way to make sure every student starts the school off on the right foot.
This year, Project S.O.S. distributed 6,121 backpacks full of supplies.