The Coats for Kids project donates approximately 100 new coats each year

An anonymous West Linn donor has touched the lives of children in need for the past 15 years.

Each year, the donor — with help from the West Linn and Riverview Lions Clubs — give away new Columbia Sportswear winter jackets through the Coats for Kids project to students in need at Willamette, Stafford, Sunset, Bolton, Cedaroak Park and Trillium Creek primary schools, and Athey Creek and Rosemont Ridge middle schools.

“A family that lived in the area wanted to do something for the kids this time of year and they thought the coats were a good idea,” said Bob Bany, who with his wife, Kelly, organize the Coats for Kids project. “It’s a great project that’s worked out really well every year.”

The Coats for Kids project donates approximately 100 coats each year at a retail value upward of $90 apiece. This year, the project will donate 137 coats to children sometime before Thanksgiving. Each year, the project operates a little differently depending on the need. Some schools, such as Willamette Primary, require more coats than others.

Bany contacts the schools every year during the first week of school. He gives the school councilors a size chart and order form. Once the orders have been placed — typically by mid-October — the orders are sent to Columbia Sportswear.

“This has been a really neat project for me and my wife to be involved with,” Bany said. “But all the school councilors deserve a lot of the credit. They do all the footwork. We couldn’t do it without the school’s help.”

Mark Silverman, Willamette Primary School councilor, said the Coats for Kids project has made a profound impact on his school. This year, 25 students at Willamette will receive free coats. For some families, it will the second time they have to received a donation.

“The number of kids receiving our free and reduced lunches has gone up over the last three to five years,” Silverman said, noting the impact the economy has had on families. “About 20 percent of our students qualify for the free lunch.”

Silverman sends out a newsletter each year to Willamette families that outlines the Coats for Kids project. Interested families contact Silverman himself, but in most cases, the gift of the coat comes as a surprise to the child.

“When a family knows that they’re going to be able to get a really high-quality winter coat for their child I think it really gives them some piece of mind.

“It’s not a lot in the overall scheme of what a family needs but it’s something they can count on every year. Probably more than the actual coat itself, it’s knowing that someone is thinking about them and we are trying to do what we can to fill in the gaps.”

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