ON this Fourth of July, Americans again honor the country’s independence by waving their flags, marching through parades, holding barbecues and lighting off fireworks.

Passing these traditions to the next generation is easy, but preserving the historical lessons of this holiday requires a societal commitment to cultivate the minds of our nation’s youngest citizens through quality education.

The Founding Fathers’ bold vision for freedom and democracy is at risk when children — this country’s future leaders — step into the classroom without the basic tools they need to learn. As teachers and administrators see firsthand on the first day of each school year, thousands of families cannot afford to buy their children backpacks, pencils and notebooks.

We the people must help.

Support these children through the annual school supply drive of The Seattle Times’ Fund for the Needy. Donations will be accepted through Labor Day weekend. All proceeds benefit three area nonprofits that have long worked to put the tools of learning into the hands of students: Hopelink, the YWCA of Seattle-King County-Snohomish County, and the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness.

Fourteen years after the drive’s launch, demand for assistance has not diminished as the region’s population has grown rapidly.

Beyond basic-school-supply lists, case workers with these organizations have noticed a need for supplemental supplies such as USB drives for students to store files, hand wipes and tissues for hygiene.

If children from poor families start out on an equal footing with their peers, they might worry less about fitting in and more about getting ahead through their studies.

Readers are invited to send a donation to The Seattle Times School Supply Drive, P.O. Box C-11025, Seattle, WA 98111. To donate online, visit seati.ms/edschoolsupplies. Email ffn@seattletimes.com for debit and credit card questions.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Erik Smith, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).