Joshua Smith, volunteer and outreach coordinator for Community Education, still remembers seeing a young man discover a passion he may have never realized if the nonprofit’s annual Stand for Children Day event didn’t exist.
A vendor introduced a boy to a ballet bar at last year’s celebration and, in that moment, the child learned he might possess an aptitude for performing arts.
“I think the biggest part for us is always making sure that we can connect kids with resources – whatever that is,” Smith said. “That’s what we’re hoping, is that something will happen today while kids are out that enlightens them and maybe uncovers a passion they didn’t even know they had.”
The weather didn’t cooperate with the 22nd annual event Tuesday, but hundreds still packed Bowling Green Ballpark for a rainy day of fun from 9 to 11 a.m. Kids enjoyed many types of engaging activities, including a sensory pool, Pop-A-Shot basketball, hands-on CPR demonstrations and face painting.
“You’re learning something, but also you’re doing it in a fun environment,” Smith said. “So, kids probably, hopefully, don’t even know that they’re gaining new information or actually learning something.”
Smith said the event recruited around 65 community organizations and businesses to provide dynamic opportunities and valuable information to children. Organizers projected about 750 kids would attend the free event, and although sour weather lowered those numbers, plenty of parents and caregivers were in attendance to “stand up for children and their issues.”
“Sometimes weather is bigger than we are, and so we just have to kind of roll with the punches,” Smith said. “We’re all resilient. We can make it.”
South Warren High School head football coach Brandon Smith, no relation, said the Spartans have been involved with the event for over five years. Players help organizers with setup and breakdown, but they also get the chance to work with younger kids, something Brandon Smith said they always look forward to and “have a blast” doing.
“Whenever you have small children around, how can you not be happy, you know? They just bring a smile to your face,” Brandon Smith said. “But watching our players interact with those kids and having a really good time and starting to figure out that they’re role models and those things, that’s really probably the best part from my perspective.”
Camps, day cares and other groups came from all over, including Scottsville, Morgantown and Glasgow, to get involved with the event, Joshua Smith said. But local residents also attended the festivities, including an aunt and nephew duo from the Bowling Green area – Cindy Taulbee and Sam Spence.
Spence, 13, said he enjoys the event each year because he gets to “do something fun” that breaks up his “kind of boring” summer routine. The rising eighth grader said he even gets to see some of his friends from school.
“(I enjoy) all the booths and stuff, because it’s a different variety of stuff you can do,” Spence said. “You can play games, you can, like, see the people that are behind the booth and stuff like that.”
Taulbee said the pair has attended the event on several occasions before, mostly because it’s free and fun for her nephew. But while Spence erases his summer boredom at the tents lining the ballpark’s concourse, Taulbee said she gets to learn more about local services and resources.
“We were hoping to play games out on the field but I think the rain took that out of the game,” Taulbee said with a laugh. “But it’s still fun entertainment. You get lots of goodies you can pick up at all the tables.”
Years after humble beginnings at the Lovers Lane Soccer Complex, the event moved to Western Kentucky University’s South Lawn before settling into its current home at the ballpark eight years ago. Joshua Smith said the event is still growing, which is promising for its future.
Planning for the 23rd event will begin shortly, but not before Joshua Smith has a chance to reflect. Not on the grunt work, like setting up tents and tables for vendors, but on the impact the festival made in the community it serves.
“For me, it’s being able to look out, seeing the fun, the excitement and the laughter with the kids – seeing the community engagement,” Joshua Smith said. “But then seeing it all just kind of happen. It’s amazing to see it right then, seeing all the kids here. That’s special for me to see that it’s going and it’s working and doing everything we have planned for the last year to do.”