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story.lead_photo.caption Democrat photo/Kaden QuinnChildren wait patiently to grab their backpacks at Double-X Speedway’s “Racing Back to School” night. The event, which started in 2019 and made its return this year, provides children with free backpacks and other school supplies in advance of the start of school.

As the new school year closes in, local organizations and community members have been looking for ways to support the children of Moniteau County and Mid-Missouri. One such organization is Double-X Speedway, as they were able to provide nearly 200 backpacks to children during their latest race Sunday.

Double-X Speedway has been working with organizer Tyler Utz, racer Tyler Blank and many others to support local school children with their "Racing Back to School" night since 2019. Utz said he decided back to gather friends and family to provide resources that could be offered to children in the community.

"We were just sitting down and I thought, 'Why don't we (give backpacks to the kids)?'" Utz said. "A group of us got together, which included myself, Tyler Blank, Tara Hudson, Terry Ford, Carol Wirts, and we just said that we wanted to start a backpack night. We did just a couple of weeks before and I think we were somewhere between 60 to 80 backpacks."

While the speedway was not able to do its "Racing Back to School" event last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, Utz said they were more than ready to bring back the event for 2021.

Organizers were even prepared to have more backpacks than children present at the races Sunday.

"This year we've come back with another year for 'Racing Back to School,'" Utz said Sunday night. "There are a lot of people who contributed, and we've grown even bigger for this year. My safe number of backpacks tonight is at 180 backpacks. We will probably exceed the amount of kids here, so what we're going to do after this is take the remainder of the backpacks and the supplies and we're going to donate in the surrounding schools."

Utz said many people have been generous with their donations for the event. While not all backpacks came with school supplies, some donors took the liberty of packing a range of basic materials children might need for the upcoming school year.

"Sometimes it ranges from different things but we try to put this in your basics: pencils, pens, highlighters, dry erase markers, scissors, glue sticks, paper, notebooks, folders and rulers," Utz said. "Not every backpack has the same thing, but we hope that it helps kids during their school year."

During intermission, children were able to line up on the track and pick up a backpack. After each child had a chance to grab one, they lined up on the wall for a group photo with organizers.

Utz said as their tradition continues, he hopes to see it grow as the community comes together to help prepare children for school.

"We want to grow (Racing Back to School) every year so it can get bigger and better," Utz said. "This is a great place for families to come. It's cheap entertainment, you can come out on Sunday night. The main thing is we're giving back to the kids and help from the community is all around here. So that's why it's important to us."

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