Steiner DI team brings backpacks to homeless teens

The Tick Tock Tigers Destination Imagination team reached its goal of 100 backpacks filled with supplies that were delivered to LifeWorks Austin for their celebration on Dec. 21.

By SARAH DOOLITTLE, Four Points News

The Destination Imagination team Tick Tock Tigers, made up of 5th and 6th graders from Laura Welch Bush Elementary and Canyon Ridge Middle School, is raising money to donate backpacks to homeless teens in Austin.

Named Project Survive, the team’s project involves working with the organization LifeWorks Austin, which every year helps over 4,000 local teens and adults who are transitioning from homelessness, unemployment and trauma.

There are seven students on their DI team (one of several at CRMS): 6th graders Aarushi Boppibi, Gigi Suresh, Adi Suresh, Anya Phawoa and 5th graders Ryann Wager, Brooke Boykin and Neha Natarahan. Their coaches are moms Aravhana Suresh and Angie Boykin.

This is the second year they’ve been working together. “We had a choice to continue as a team the next year, so we did, because we already knew each other and it would be easier,” explained Anya. They plan to continue as a team again next year when they are all CRMS students.

Destination Imagination is an academic team building program that fosters creativity, problem solving, critical thinking and other skills.

For this year’s competition, to be held Feb. 17, 2018, “You’re allowed to choose a topic based on the need in a community, so we chose to help the homeless,” said Gigi.

In addition to fulfilling their community service project, students will be expected to build a moving machine, to write and perform a sketch and to complete an “instant challenge” in which the team is given a box of materials and has to complete a task.

Gigi has been participating in DI since kindergarten, and last year competed with the Tick Tock Tigers at the state level in Lubbock.

“State is a little harder because you have competed with (teams from) different places around Texas,” she explained. “After state is globals, where you compete with people (from) as far away as China.”

The team was inspired to serve the indigent population after Gigi and her twin brother, Adi, worked with Meals on Wheels, which donates leftover meals and food to those in need.

Rather than guess the needs of the local homeless community, the team visited Community First, a master planned affordable housing community in South Austin.

“They have a gigantic shelter,” said Adi. “Then we did a survey there… to see if they wanted backpacks, did they want flashlights, water bottles, water purification tablets, Mylar blankets.”

As Brooke explained, “We got other ideas from doing that as well. We asked them to tell us other things they would like.”

The final list of items that will go in the backpacks includes: Mylar blankets, flannel blankets, dental hygiene and first aid kits, water bottles and socks.

Adi reminds the community that they are seeking monetary donations only. “We don’t really ask for items, we ask for donations. We ask for any amount, but we ask for ideally sponsoring a bag, which is $25,” for the backpack and its contents.

The team has raised hundreds of dollars so far and they are asking the community to continue to donate in any amount possible through February.

To donate, call (512) 587-9449, email or visit the team’s GoFundMe page at

Local businesses including Lakeside Pizza, Rising Stars Dentistry, Austin Trust and Cups & Cones have supported the campaign. The team took the backpacks to LifeWorks Austin and will do so again when more donations come in.

The Tick Tock Tigers Destination Imagination team filled backpacks with necessary items from money they raised and they delivered these backpacks to LifeWorks Austin on Dec. 15 with Maureen Engle, special events coordinator.

Canyon Ridge Middle School and Laura Welch Bush Elementary Destination Imagination team Tick Tock Tigers: (standing from left) Anya Phawoa, Aarushi Boppibi, Brooke Boykin, Neha Natarahan, Adi Suresh, and (sitting from left) Gigi Suresh and Ryann Natarajan