Published: Jul 24, 2011 6:17 PM EDT
Updated: Jul 24, 2011 5:12 PM EDT

Fort Myers, Fla.-- Lee County's largest back to school outreach event happened at Harborside Event Center today.

Over 10,000 people showed up to get free backpacks and school supplies for the upcoming year.

"Back to school supplies can cost families anywhere from $30 to hundreds of dollars per student. Each family here with the amount of school supplies they receive its about a $50 value," said co-chair Connie Ramos-Williams.

Barbara Fogelsong is a single, unemployed mother. The yearly expense of back-to-school items for her eight children is too much for her to afford.

"Without it they wouldn't have the eye exams the hair cuts, the school supplies they wouldn't have any of it its just a matter of just going to school and having every day things. Its very important to us," Fogelsong said.

Over the last 12 years, the BIG backpack event has helped prepare 28,000 kids for the new school year. Organizers say as the event has continued to grow, so has the need.

"With the economy over the last few years were seeing a more diverse community coming out for need this year. People who were making six figure incomes in the past.. they're without jobs right now," Ramos-Williams continued.

Today's event provided more than 2,000 kids with backpacks full of supplies, hair cuts and eye exams.

But, for some families, having an event to assist families in need, doesn't make it any easier to ask for help.

"It took a lot out of me to come up here because I've driven by it for years and never came because we didn't need it and this year we need it. It was very hard to say okay we need assistance this year," Fogelsong continued.

More than 150 volunteers donated their time to run the event. WINK news anchor Cayle Thompson was one of the BIG backpack emcees.