By: Rikki Luebke
I took a deep breath as I watched it all come together. Months of hard work finally paying off. I did it. I felt I could finally relax for a minute. I enjoyed my lunch, knowing I pulled off a great kick-off event.
Several months ago, I approached Ellen Mills, Libby School District Nutrition Manager, about hosting a kick-off event in an attempt to raise awareness to the Summer Meal Program. She told me to go for it, so I began planning. I started brainstorming what this event would look like and began recruiting people to make it happen. The library agreed to attend the event and have a table for people to sign up for the Summer Reading Program. I then reserved some fruit costumes, which I would have to pick up from Missoula. I thought that kids would love to take pictures with life-size dancing fruit! I also reserved a clown to come make balloon animals.
The next big step was securing grant funding to allow everyone to eat for free at the event. We wanted this to be a family event, where parents could eat with their kids, enjoy activities, and learn more about the Summer Meal Program. We applied for a grant through Montana No Kid Hungry to provide food for the event. We received $391 with the remaining amount going towards activity supplies for many summers to come.
The event slowly came together as I recruited volunteers. I then became busy promoting the event. I created flyers, which were sent to local businesses and hung in the schools. I even created a Facebook event page, which I promoted in various Libby Facebook groups and other local Facebook pages including The Western News and the Libby Youth Center. Many people began sharing the event page and inviting their friends.The week before the event was hectic as we finalized the plans. We finally secured live music and an appearance from Smokey Bear. We also decided to buy prizes for kids to receive from playing various carnival games.
The day of the event was a huge blur. I ran around trying to make sure everything got set up correctly. I also stayed busy giving tasks to all of the volunteers. Then, the people began to arrive. I attempted to take pictures, check on volunteers, and provide information to families all at the same time. Luckily, there was another volunteer that was capturing the event on her camera as well as a photographer from The Western News. Everything was going according to plan. I even interviewed with an editor from The Western News. I talked to a few more families as the event was wrapping up. It wasn’t until this moment that I could relax and enjoy my lunch.
A total of 67 kids and 48 adults attended the kick-off event, which was more than I could have ever hoped for! As I talked to parents, many became interested in bringing their children to enjoy the summer meals and the activity programming. In addition to the awareness brought to the Summer Meal Program through the kick-off event, we gained even more awareness through the article in The Western News about the event and our plans for the summer.
I am grateful for how this event came together and even more grateful to the volunteers that helped make it happen. Without their time and support, this event would not have been possible.