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Fill a Backpack in Honor of Jim Callahan

Saturday's 5,000 backpack drive will remember late Malverne leader and Project HOT SHOTS 'VP.'

A multi-color pile of empty backpacks sits on one side of the gym in Malverne. Against the other wall, are stacks of empty cardboard boxes, and in between, are tables filled with pencils, notebooks, folders, dictionaries, highlighters, scissors and Elmer's glue.

Starting at noon this Saturday, local kids will file into the gym, grab a backpack and fill it up with all the necessary supplies for a successful school year, but they won't be taking them home. Instead, they'll drop the stuffed packs, 5,000 of them to be exact, into boxes, so they can shipped all over the world to kids who can not afford basic items like this.

This will be the fifth year that Project H.O.T. S.H.O.T.S., a global charity based right here in Malverne, will be running its backpack drive, but for the first time, the effort will also be a tribute to the life of the l

John Gotimer, the founder and president of Project H.O.T. S.H.O.T.S. (which stands for Helping Others Through Sports Have Outstanding Tomorrows), always considered Callahan to be the charity's vice president.

Gotimer had the idea to start the non-profit in 2006, but it didn't become a reality until he shared it with Callahan while they were coaching their sons' Little League team.

"He was so enthusiastic," Gotimer told Patch in , as he kicked off the fundraising campaign for this year's program. "He just thought it was a great idea ... This probably wouldn't have happened without Jim."

Callahan, a father of four and husband to Patricia Canzoneri-Callahan, from cancer in May 2011 at the age of 42. But to honor his memory, Gotimer renamed the backpack drive "The James J. Callahan Memorial Operation: 5,000 Backpacks Program - A Celebration of a Life Spent Helping Others."  

Malvernites Joann Zappa, who attended law school with Callahan, and her husband Peter Freeman, donated $10,000 to sponsor all 5,000 backpacks that were purchased. Their donation was made in memory of Peter's parents, David and Naomi Freeman. More than 30 other local families, businesses and churches have also purchased sponorships to pay for the 10 tons of school supplies that will be stuffed into each pack.

Those wishing to make a sponsorship can still do so at the July 21 event, which will run from noon to 4 p.m. Gotimer will also be raising additional funds for the charity by raffling off a cabana at the Catalina Beach Club in Atlantic Beach for the remainder of the summer. Tickets cost $50 each. One hundred percent of the money raised will go to Project H.O.T. S.H.O.T.S.

And anyone wishing to help by simply stuffing a backpack, just needs to show up. Gotimer said this is a great opportunity, for kids and teens especially, to learn the importance of helping others.

"You're going to do some hard work," he tells them, "and you're going to feel good about it."

For more information visit projecthotshots.org.

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