Since 2016, Hunter Beaton has provided over 30,000 backpacks and duffel bags to foster children across the United States through his nonprofit organization, Day 1 Bags. His personal motto is, “Dignity, not trash.”
The foster care system provides no standard-issue bag for children’s personal belongings, so when they move from place to place, some foster children resort to using trash bags. This was the case with Beaton’s three adopted siblings.
“When they came into our home, they came with a trash bag full of their clothing (and) whatever they had with them,” Beaton, a communication and leadership sophomore, said. “As a child, I realized this was a serious problem, but I didn’t really see many efforts being done in order to change it.”
Later, when he was 15 years old, Beaton created Day 1 Bags for his Eagle Scout project. He filled 100 bags with toiletries, clothing and toys for foster children in Boerne, Texas. After completing the project, he said he realized the need was much greater than he anticipated.
“I was trying to provide foster children in our local county with bags filled with supplies for them, and it grew into a nationwide organization,” Beaton said.
Day 1 Bags now distributes bags to foster children across the country. Sometimes bags contain toiletries and other necessities, but for the most part, foster children receive the bag by itself. In a recent initiative, Beaton partnered with UT’s Spark Program to provide all former foster youth at UT with a new backpack.
Because of his dedication to the foster community, Beaton was a recipient of a Congressional Gold Medal award in 2019 and was recognized with a Hill Country 40 Under 40 award just this month.
“The fruits of (our) labors are the fact that we’re not only changing lives, but people in and outside of our community recognize the impact that we’re having,” said Tony Alexander, director of external affairs and public relations for Day 1 Bags.
Alexander said he’s impressed by the work Beaton has done with Day 1 Bags.
“There was a little doubt in (Beaton’s) mind of, ‘Can I pull this off?’” Alexander said. “And we just had to change that mindset of ‘Can I pull it off?’ to ‘I’m gonna pull this off.’ And he did it. He did it with a lot of blood, sweat and tears.”
Beaton said he feels most fulfilled when he gets to personally distribute bags and build relationships.
“I can say I’ve served over 30,000 youth in the United States in 14 different states and, yeah, that's a pretty grand number, but sometimes that … just doesn’t register with me,” Beaton said.
Alexander said the support Beaton has received from his family has led to the widespread success of the organization.
“I’m very proud of his heart,” his mother Paula Beaton said. “He knows people by name and gets to talk to them. Giving (children) a sense of identity is huge in the foster system.”
Because most foster children rely on hand-me-down items, being given something new like a backpack can make a big impact, Beaton said.
“When I go and I take a bag and give it to a foster youth, I see the strength and the grace in their eyes, and I get to see that everyone, no matter what, deserves the dignity of having a bag instead of a trash bag,” Beaton said.