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Sunday, August 1, 2010

Backing the Kids

Angela Eaton, Tennder Care program director, stacks some of the 1,000 backpacks for the third annual Sullivan County Regional Health Department Back-To-School Health Fest held on Saturday at the Kingsport Civic Auditorium. The event was free to the public, providing free dental checkups, free haircuts, and free backpacks with school supplies, games, inflatable games, snacks and music. Free health checkups were also available for children participating in the TennCare program, and all children receiving a checkup at the event were entered to win a Wii game system.

It was a crowded scene at the Civic Auditorium, but the auditorium was not the only place where Kingsport public school students and their parents could get needed supplies.

Natasha Fuller found a much quieter time on the Douglass Ballfield in Riverview.

"This is so much easier than standing in the long lines at the Civic Auditorium," she says, having heard about the Riverview event from flyers. "There were 500 people at the auditorium. It was raining, people pushing and shoving, and my kids were stressing out."

About 100 children and their parents were given supply items they'll need in school this upcoming school, and even got a snack afterwards.

Click here to see a slideshow of the Back to School Supplies giveaway at the Douglass Ballfield.

Click here to see downloadable pictures of the Back to School Supplies Giveaway at the Douglass Ballfield.

"Every year, we get a list of supplies the kids will need," says Jeannie Hodges with South Central Kingsport Community Development's Weed & Seed office, the sponsor of the event. "The number one things the kids and the parents ask for, are the basics.. pencils, paper, pens, crayons for the pre-schoolers, and we also give out toothpaste and tooth brushes to each child."

The list from the school system has gotten much shorter over the years.

"Last year, each grade had a sheet of required items, and this year, for grades 1 through 8, it's all on one sheet," Mrs. Hodges says. "In my opinion, having worked int he school system myself, it needed to decrease. I would look at it and say to myself, 'why is this on there?' I don't know if parents complained, or educators look at the list and wondered why certain items were on it, but the list did decrease."

But any little bit helps, says Ms. Fuller, who came to Riverview with her twin Sevier Middle School girls, another daughter, and a 4 year old pre-schooler son.

"Sometimes, the financial burden is tremendous," she says. "I wait tables for a living, and the money can get to be hard to come by. Anything they have to have for school that's not provided, we can find it here in the things they're giving out and we can make them last a long time."

"It's really a big help, and we'll be back next year."