A Joyful Back-to-School Carnival Story
Written by Carol Skoglund
August 8, 2023
Her name is Emily. She is four years old and can’t take her eyes from the glass as she peers into the social room where volunteers are setting up a back-to-school carnival event. She waits and waits. Finally, the volunteers gather in a large circle. They unite in a prayer before opening the door.
Who is the first through the door? Emily! Behind her is her older sister, Kathryn, and mom. Word spreads fast down the hallways that the carnival had begun. In the blink of an eye, the room was filled with kids, ranging in age from toddlers to teens. The youngest, an infant, was held in her father’s arms.
All the kids were eager to receive a backpack – they congregated two or three deep around the table with volunteers. Backpacks were filled with age-appropriate school supplies which included crayons, pencils, pens, markers, notebooks, pocket folders, glue sticks, and more.
During the afternoon event, many kids proudly wore their new backpacks as they participated in a variety of arts and crafts activities. Emily’s older sister, Kathryn, enjoyed decorating a t-shirt. Other kids decorated thank-you cards and were encouraged to give their handmade cards to a teacher or someone who makes them smile on their first day at school.
Other activities included Bingo, ring toss, bean bag toss, Simon Says, and yoga. The activity that created the most excitement and laughter was the Oreo cookie challenge. The goal was to move an Oreo from their forehead to their mouth without using their hands. A volunteer made it look so easy. Then a group of boys tried it only to discover it wasn’t so easy. After some trial runs, they got it and had a lot of fun and friendly competition in the process.
At the conclusion of the event, volunteers served an early pizza and salad dinner to the kids and their families. It was a joyful afternoon for all, and a special day the kids will remember.
*** *** ***
Echelon Cleveland, established in April 2021, hosted this event held at The Salvation Army Harbor Light Complex for the benefit of 120 clients with 71 kids who were staying in the emergency family shelter. The event was fully funded by donations secured by the Echelon board, including a $1,200 grant from Shiksha Daan to fund the school supplies.