Back-2-School Elkhart is Saturday
Posted: 08/06/2012 at 1:15 am
By: Marlys Weaver-Stoesz
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Janae Lovings, 7, of Elkhart gives a surprised look when she receives a new set of school supplies to go with her new backpack during last year’s Back-2-School Elkhart Unity Festival Aug. 13, 2011, at Roosevelt Elementary School.
Truth File Photos By Elizabeth Frantz
Elkhart's Carmen Dancler (right), a volunteer medical assistant, performs an eye exam on 11-year-old Quinn Williams during Saturday's Back2School Elkhart Unity Festival at Roosevelt Elementary School in Elkhart, Aug. 13, 2011. The third annual event provided thousands of school children with school physicals, immunizations, haircuts, backpacks, school supplies and more. ¬ (Truth Photo By Elizabeth Frantz)
James Jensen (left) comforts his younger brother, Samuel, who is next in line to get his vaccinations during last year’s Back-2-School Elkhart Unity Festival at Roosevelt Elementary School.
As Saturday's Back2School Elkhart Unity Festival begins to wrap up, 5-year-old Connor Dow of Elkhart lays on the grass outside Roosevelt Elementary School in Elkhart, Aug. 13, 2011. Dow's family lined up about 7am to be some of the thousands to receive physicals, immunizations, haircuts, backpacks, school supplies and more before the start of the school year. (Truth Photo By Elizabeth Frantz)
Five-year-old Ivan Perez of Goshen gets a star buzzed into his hair cut by Edward Baker during Saturday's Back2School Elkhart Unity Festival at Roosevelt Elementary School in Elkhart, Aug. 13, 2011. Baker, an employee at The Perfect Touch on S. Main Street, was one of several barbers and hair stylists who volunteered their services to give hundreds of school children free haircuts during the 3rd annual event. (Truth Photo By Elizabeth Frantz)
That’s a part of the reason she and husband Rod Roberson are so involved with putting on the Back-2-School Elkhart Unity Festival, which distributes thousands of backpacks, shoes and school supplies to kids during an event that also includes free hot dog lunches, a concert and, this year, a carnival.
“It’s amazing what a new backpack does to a kid’s psyche on the first day of school, and a new pair of shoes, if they so choose,” said Regina Roberson, the event’s school liason. The school supplies set the stage for learning, they explained.
This is the fourth year for the event, set for Saturday, again held jointly with the Minority Health Coalition’s annual Health Fair, offering free school physicals and immunizations to kids.
Plans are coming together, including some major changes, for what’s likely to be the largest Back-2-School-Elkhart event yet.
This year, Back-2-School-Elkhart will be at the Concord Mall, while the health fair will be at the Tolson Center, 1320 Benham Ave. Buses will offer transportation between the two locations, with the first bus leaving the Tolson Center at 9 a.m. and the last bus leaving Concord Mall at 3 p.m.
The joint events are the same day but with slightly different time frames. The health fair begins at 9 a.m. and goes until 3 p.m. The Back-2-School Unity Festival opens at 10 a.m. Volunteers will distribute school supplies until they are gone, but carnival rides will continue until 6 p.m.
Last year’s event served approximately 5,000 kids, but “I could see it being more than last year,” Rod Roberson, Elkhart city councilman and member of the Back-2-School board, said. “The other piece is moving out here (to Concord Mall). We don’t know what kind of impact that’s going to have,” though organizers believe it should alleviate parking and crowd concerns that previously created some issues when the event was held at Roosevelt Elementary School.
Last year, volunteers were finishing setting up for the event when the first people showed up to camp overnight for the event, Roberson said. Others arrived through the night and early morning. The mall should be more able to handle those crowds than a residential neighborhood, he said.
The concert and carnival, both held outside the mall, also provide some fun for students.
“It’s a good opportunity that last weekend before school to have a good time,” Rod Roberson said.
Churches, schools and local and national companies and organizations work together to make Back-2-School Elkhart happen.
Organizers have 1,000 shoes to distribute through Samaritan’s Feet International and about 4,000 backpacks to give away, though they’re hoping for a total of 5,000. They’re also set with volunteers, with at least 300 people planning to help out at the event, some from Kentucky and Michigan.
They still need some school supplies, especially spiral-bound notebooks, scissors and dry erase markers.
People can donate items by bringing them to the information center in the middle of Concord Mall up through Thursday evening. People can also donate money to help pay for other expenses with putting on the event by mailing tax deductible donations to Back-2-School Elkhart Inc., P.O. Box 2105, Elkhart, IN 46517 or visiting www.back2schoolelkhart.com.
WHAT ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW:
• The Back-2-School Elkhart Unity Festival will this year be at Concord Mall, while the health fair will be at the Tolson Center, 1320 Benham Ave., Elkhart. Buses will offer transportation between the two locations, with the first bus leaving the Tolson Center at 9 a.m. and the last bus leaving Concord Mall at 3 p.m.
• Families wanting to attend the Back-2-School Elkhart Unity Festival must enter through the north door on the Big R side of JCPenney. Those who enter through other doors to participate will have to exit and re-enter through that door.
• The carnival will be open outside Concord Mall Friday evening from 5 to 10 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Kids participating in Back-2-School Elkhart Saturday will receive a few free ride tickets.