Bright and early on Saturday morning, July 29, Kiwanis volunteers were busy setting up for an event that truly embodied its name, “Christmas in July.” In a room filled with Christmas décor, presents and Santa Claus, needy families gathered to have their children outfitted and ready for the new school year.
The event at the Florida Sports Park was accomplished after months of fundraising and planning by nine Collier County Kiwanis clubs, that came together to help the county’s homeless children get ready for the start of school for the second year.
The county had originally identified 808 homeless students registered in the Collier County Public School System. But by the time the event arrived, the number of students needing assistance grew to 981.
The cost to sponsor one child was $89, which coveredthe necessities in the backpack. Kiwanis members not only fundraised, but also stepped up personally, together raising close to $90,000 for the backpacks alone. The estimated amount raised from all nine Kiwanis clubs exceeds $200,000.
In addition to a backpack filled with school supplies, children received cloth- ing from JC Penney, purchased for each child using measurements provided by the families beforehand. To look and feel good on the first day, children will have new socks and sneakers, underwear, shirts and pants, and toiletries. Bikes for Tykes took part, and students were also given a brand new bicycle, complete with a helmet fitted for them, and a bicycle lock.
The festivities included a meal of hot dogs and hamburgers, popcorn, and ice cream. A visit with Santa made the day complete.
Marco Island Kiwanis ClubPresident Kathleen Reynolds describes the event as “very well organized.” She noted that many volunteers from Marco Island stepped up, including Tim and Pam Clune, John Coff, Janice and Perry Baptiste, Maryann Cassidy, Ed and Cindy Crane, Pat Hagedorn, Kim and Larry Heinemann, Jerry Defibaugh and Linda Hollander, Rebecca Snyder and Joe and Kathi Swaja.
Kathleen Reynolds described the joy of the event, evident in the “beaming faces of the children,” but she also notes that the Kiwanians themselves “received a lot of joy as well.”
She added, “I think we did help the families, because now the kids are prepared for school.”
During season, the Kiwanis Club of Marco Island meets for breakfast on Thursday mornings at 7:30 AM at Stonewalls. For more information visit www.kiwanisclubofmarcoisland.org or contact President Kathleen Reynolds at 239-394- 0459 or KReynol@aol.com.