Carnival offers school supplies and fun for families

The Back to School Health and Safety Carnival will provide assistance to area families preparing for the upcoming school year. The event takes place on Aug. 8, from 2-6 p.m. at Portland Avenue Park in Tacoma.

For the past nine years, the event has offered free school supplies and fun to families who attend. Event organizers remind families that children must be present to receive supplies.

Jerome Davis, a founding event organizer, said the carnival has grown a lot in just a few short years.

"We expect a couple thousand people this year," said Davis. "It's grown from the first year, when we only had about 300 people. Attendance mainly depends on the area we are in though, especially if it's within walking distance."

Children entering kindergarten through 12th grade can receive a backpack with general school supplies for the start of the school year. Adults can receive information about community resources, health care insurance and after-school programs for children. There will also be vision and general health exams, blood pressure and diabetes screenings. Additional booths will provide information on fitness and nutrition counseling, alcoholism and drug abuse prevention, smoking and tobacco education, HIV/AIDS prevention education, and bike, helmet, and car seat safety information.

This year, children can play games and redeem points for additional school supplies, can enter a three-on-three basketball tournament and enjoy a special visit from Rodney Raccoon. A free lunch will be provided. There will also be live music from local jazz/gospel performers T-Soak, and hip-hop artist, TDT.

The event has continued to be a success over the years because of the growth in partnerships, Davis explained. When the event began, the Boys and Girls Club offered support, and then World Vision jumped on board, he said. Laura Rodriguez, an event organizer from World Vision, said the members from the community also offer support through volunteering. Rodriguez said volunteers are still needed this year and that those interested should contact her at (253) 383-1528.

Although the economy has made finding new sponsors for the East Side's community event even more difficult, Davis said a few new partners, including Metro Parks Tacoma, have offered their assistance.

"They [Metro Parks] will bring something new to the table with movies in the park this year," said Davis. The free outdoor movie in the park starts at 7 p.m.

Several other businesses have continued to stay loyal over the years, as well, including Columbia Bank and Bern's Towing, Davis said.

"They knew we needed help in some of those areas. We didn't approach them. They just chipped in," he noted.

Unlike previous years, the economy has caused a greater demand for free school supplies. Davis said the event is open to anyone who is in need, not just Tacoma students or families, but that the event is usually targeted to lower income residents and residents living around the East Side of the city.

"The event began almost 10 years ago out of a need to offer something different to people living in the community," Davis said. "There were not a lot of opportunities for kids to get out and play or do something fun. The event has just been something really fun for the community to do."

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