Kids Aid founder finalist for hero award

Mike Berry, founder of the Kids Aid Backpack Program in Grand Junction, catches a case of oatmeal at the Ametek warehouse off 27 Road. The food was taken to a facility where Barry and other volunteers fill new and used backpacks for the summer program.

Mike Berry prefers to be humble about his work with the Kids Aid Backpack Program, rarely taking credit for founding the program that fed more than 1,400 local children last year.

The lid could be blown off of his humanitarian anonymity, however, as he has been selected as a finalist in the “All-Stars Among Us” contest sponsored by People magazine and Major League Baseball.

Berry said he did not know who nominated him for the highly visible national award, but he feels honored to receive such support from the community at large.

“The thought was it could bring a lot of awareness to the program nationwide,” Berry said, “because this isn’t just a local problem.”

Berry is among 90 finalists nationally, three of whom were selected to represent Colorado.

The prestigious contest, in which People honors average citizens who are regarded as heroes within their communities and who are making a difference in the lives of their neighbors, has taken place for the past 35 years.

Voting has started online at Berry’s nomination is listed under the Colorado Rockies logo. There is no limit to the number of times a person can vote, and voting ends June 20.

If selected as an All-Star, Berry will join 30 other philanthropists for a weeklong celebration in Anaheim, Calif., and he will be honored during a pregame ceremony for baseball’s All-Star Game on July 13.

One of the winners will be selected by the magazine’s publishers to be profiled in the pages of People magazine.

“All of these people have done really neat things,” Berry said of his fellow nominees, adding he felt his chance at being featured in the magazine was “a long shot.”

These days, the financial consultant is more focused on continuing to feed needy children in the Grand Valley this summer.

The demand for food doesn’t end during the summer months, Berry said, and not having the school’s usual support structure makes getting food into the hands of children more difficult. Berry and his group of volunteers, though, plan to give food to children through the next five weeks.

The food will be distributed, to children only, Monday through Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Clifton Christian Church, 615 Interstate 70 Business Loop. The program begins today and ends July 15.

Another distribution will take place each Wednesday evening from 6 to 8 p.m. at Canyon View Vineyard Church, 736 24 1/2 Road, beginning Wednesday and ending July 14.

The food will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

The Kids Aid Backpack Program started during the 2008-09 school year to provide food on weekends for school children who would go hungry without it. That year, the program fed 700 children in 14 schools across the Grand Valley. This past school year, the program doubled in distribution size, serving more than 1,400 children in 25 schools.

Berry said the outpouring of support that businesses and organizations have given the program in the past two years amazes him.

“I guess it’s because this program is just more personal. Everybody knows somebody who is receiving a backpack,” he said.  “The demand has always been there, but we are just now able to fill it.”

Next year, Berry said, he hopes to give food to children in every school in School District 51.


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