Leaving a Legacy – One Backpack at a Time

Izabella Arndt has lived a lot of life in a few short years.

“I was abandoned at the age of one,” says the soon to be Waukee High School sophomore. “I was abandoned in the living quarters of an electrical company in China.”

It’s a life, pre-Waukee, that provided challenge after challenge. 

“Just having that feeling of abandonment and then going through open heart surgery in an orphanage without a family by my side,” she shares. “Then coming here, away from everything I’ve ever known, instills a lot of a trauma in a child.” 

That trauma can be a hard thing to overcome.

“These foster kids go through the same thing, except they are ripped out of their homes, on such short notice,” says Arndt. “They have no idea what’s going on. They are not able to grab a teddy bear or blanket.”

That need inspired Izabella to start Backpacks for Foster Kids, a program she runs out of her own toy room.

The program started when she asked guests at her 10th birthday party to bring items to donate, instead of toys for her to play with.

“I think it’s one of my favorite ways to cope with my trauma,” shares Izabella. “I’m able to bring comfort to foster kids that I never got.”

In her first year, Izabella donated a few dozen backpacks to Four Oaks an organization working with kids just like her. This week, Izabella’s family allowed our cameras to join them as they dropped off more than 100 backpacks. 

“When a kid is removed from their birth home and goes into a foster home, that is a huge transition,” says Emily Easton, a Recruitment Coordinator at Four Oaks. “On those first few nights, it can be very impactful for those kids and provide a lot of comfort.”

Backpacks for Foster Kids is starting to catch on across the state. Joining Izabella on donation day is 8-year-old Marysa. The two met as part of the Miss Iowa program. Marysa drove to central Iowa all the way from Davenport, with backpacks in hand.

“Once she learned about my program, she’s like I want to help,” says Izabella. “She went out to her friends and family and she was able to get 8 or 10 backpacks.”

From a birthday party idea, to more than 100 backpacks going to kids looking for consistency, Izabella Arndt is truly making a difference. Our community is better because of it.  

“These backpacks are able to bring a little bit of comfort,” shares Izabella. “It’s like hey, this is yours to keep. This is something that’s not going to be taken away from you.” 

Foster Families in Iowa

There is a need for foster families in central Iowa. To learn more about this process, click here.

Donating to Backpacks for Foster Kids

Reach out to Izabella at izabellachina2009@gmail.com.