Mountain View Community Center will hold its fourth Back to School Barbecue and Health Fair on Aug. 24.
The center has partnered with other organizations that previously held smaller backpack drives in order to hold one large event, said Beth Ann Johnson, MVCC community coordinator.
“Our event has grown from 400 the first year to 900 last year,” said Johnson, who added that they distributed all of their backpacks in four hours last year.
To help support the event, a fun run called Kilometers for Kids, a 5K distance, will be held Saturday at Mountain View Community Center in Edgewood. Registration is $20 and can be done at South Sound Running in Puyallup or Tacoma, at www.mtviewcc.org, or on race day.
The fee covers what it costs Mountain View Community Center to furnish a backpack and basic school supplies, Johnson said.
On Friday, staff members will be at South Sound Running in Puyallup from 5 to 8 p.m. to distribute race packets and for people to register for the run. Prizes will be awarded after the run, and the first 100 participants to register will receive a T-shirt.
Saturday’s race will start at 8:30 a.m., but staff members will be there by 7:30 a.m. for people who want to register.
Participants can walk or run on what Johnson said would be a beautiful course through Edgewood.
“Not many fun runs go past a horse pasture,” she said.
The back-to-school event Aug. 24 will feature more than just giving away backpacks stuffed with school supplies. Volunteers will be on hand to give free haircuts, dental checkups, vision checks, health screenings or help students choose the right outfit for the first day of school.
There also will be a climbing wall, the Old Coots on Scoots motorcycle club, which will make sno cones and popcorn, face painting and more.
Johnson said the average cost of school supplies per student is $70, making it difficult for many families to afford everything students need at the start of the school year. She said they rely heavily on community donations, as well as local volunteers.
Last year, 160 volunteers were on hand. Johnson said they would need at least that many again for this year.
“It takes weeks and weeks to get all the supplies and volunteers lined up for an event that lasts four hours,” Johnson said.
She added that the day is extremely rewarding.
“We are truly blessed,” she said.
Tickets are printed for people who attend the back-to-school event, and each color is assigned a specific hour to receive a backpack, Johnson said. The system makes it easier for families to navigate the area so they don’t have wait in line for hours at a time, she said.
While families wait for their time slot, they can roam throughout the campus and take advantage of all that the event has to offer.
“Last year when I got here early to do the setup, I saw people sitting outside in blankets at 6:30 a.m.,” Johnson said.
The United Way donates some of the supplies, and businesses are displaying large barrels for the community to use as donation sites.
Students from Walker High School will act as translators for Spanish- and Russian-speaking families during the event.
Mountain View Community Center still needs donations, as well as locations for donation barrels. For more information, call the center at 253-826-4329 or email email@example.com.Joan Cronk is a freelance reporter for the Herald.