Our Story and Team

Backpack Buddies of Maple Valley, WA, is a non-profit organization that provides nutritional security to students K–12, who lack sufficient nutrition at home or are unsure where their next meal will come from.

In 2015 a couple of our girls who are in Girl Scouts began participating in a service project with the Covington Backpack Buddies. Knowing there would be a need in Maple Valley we immediately began asking for approval and financial support to bring it to our own community.

In the Fall of 2016 Rock Creek Elementary piloted our program for us. After a few months we had all elementary schools participating and shortly after that the middle schools were added. In 2018 we met one of our initial goals to serve all schools in Tahoma School District. We went from 6 bags that very first week to 160 in the fall of 2018.

We have become our own non-profit charity so that we can better serve the kids in need. We really believe in Backpack Buddies and how greatly it benefits the students we serve. Facing hunger or nutritional insecurity is terrifying and so uncertain for children. It affects them physically, mentally, socially and academically. By simply sending home a bag of food for the weekend, we help provide some nutrition and security, which supports their social and academic performance.

Meet the team!

Mindy Gamble


I am a wife and a mom of two Tahoma students. I enjoy being with my family and friends. I love to be outdoors (hiking, walking, biking, etc). My happy place is Lake Chelan. Growing up I came from a single-family home where we made the best of our food stamps, we waited in line at Kent Commons to get our powdered milk and cheese. I know what it’s like when your parent struggles to make the best of what they have.

I am fortunate enough that my husband has a very good and stable job so we do not have to worry about food insecurities. When my daughter did her first service activity through girl scouts at the Covington Storehouse I was overwhelmed with emotion knowing that we were packing for 202 kids that night. I knew immediately that God was calling me to bring Backpack Buddies to my community. Now seeing the benefits of this program for the kids I couldn’t imagine not being involved.

I am proud of what Backpack Buddies of Maple Valley has become and pleased to serve the kids in my community.

Debi Braulik

Vice President


Gabriel Smedes


I moved to Maple Valley in 2016 and went to Tahoma high school. I am now attending Pepperdine University studying Political Science. I am eager to help and do what I can to help meet some of the needs of others in my community.

Mike Gamble


I am married to the president, that’s all.  No, I grew up in north Seattle.  I am an outside salesman for a lumber company where I met my wonderful wife.  When I am not working my focus is first on our kids, then running, then any Seattle sports team.  I signed up as treasurer as I couldn’t think of a better way to support my wife than by her side.

Whitney Mullins



I grew up in Kent and moved to Maple Valley in 2017 when my husband and I got engaged. We are a large, blended family with five incredible children, two cats and a dog. I graduated from Central Washington University with a degree in Sociology and Ethnic Studies and have a strong passion for education and social justice. I have spent my career working in the field of postsecondary attainment for underserved populations.

Backpack Buddies is an amazing organization and I’m so thankful to have been given the opportunity to serve our community and students!

Allie Hayes

Member at large

Hi! I am a teacher in the Tahoma School District that lives here in Maple Valley. Growing up in this community and going through Tahoma was a huge blessing so it is very close to my heart. I love my job and spending time with my family/friends. I enjoy event planning and baking when I get the chance.

I believe that no child should have to worry about when their next meal will be or where it is coming from, so when I heard Mindy talking about Backpack Buddies I knew that I wanted to help. Watching the program grow from an idea to being across the whole district has been amazing!

Ganka LeCompte

Member at Large


My husband and I moved our family here from the Midwest in 2016. I am a mom of two amazing Tahoma students, a cat mom of the two sweetest cats in the world, a local realtor, a foodie, and (self-proclaimed) personal wellness advocate. I love sci-fi movies and anything from the Marvel universe.

We chose to move our family to Maple Valley because of the wonderful community here. Having grown up in an economically unstable country in Eastern Europe, I understand the vulnerability of our youngest, especially when it comes to nutrition. I also understand the value of a community coming together to help one another. I joined Backpack Buddies exactly for that reason – to help our neighbors provide nutritious meals for their kiddos on the weekend. I am grateful for the team giving me a chance to be a part of this wonderful organization.

“You’ve built a fantastic program and handled the growth extremely well! Thank you for all your hard work!”

-Backpack Buddies Volunteer

Special thanks to our current sponsors!

We want to thank our generous sponsors for supporting our mission!

These sponsors have either given in kind donations to support us or financially. Our current sponsors have allowed Backpack Buddies to become what we are today. They continue to provide support, from the buildings we pack in to the fruit that goes in bags and the venues where we hold our fundraisers. Each of these sponsors have been very generous to us over the last year or more. Businesses that support us at a Gold or Platinum Sponsorship will be shown here. We thank each of them for their part in helping Backpack Buddies become a long term, sustainable program benefiting Tahoma School District students!

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Special thanks to our current sponsors!