An astounding wave of people flooded the Raymond E. Santmyers Youth Center on Sunday, September 25, 2022, keeping the volunteers and Warren Coalition staff members busy during the first Celebrate Kids Day held since 2019.
Children who attended enjoyed pony rides, face painting, and a petting zoo, along with various inflatable rides, including a giant slide, a moon bounce, an obstacle course, and a T-ball challenge. In addition, 200 children painted a pumpkin. Inside the building were various games and activities, where children won prizes from the Warren Coalition as well as the agencies who hosted tables: Department of Social Services, Warren County Health Department, Boy Scouts, Phoenix Project, St. Luke’s Community Clinic, Mountainview Music, and Samuels Public Library.
Kids also threw balls at the pitch burst, breaking 11-inch water balloons over six cheerful volunteers: WZRV DJ Randy Woodward; Captain Crystal Cline of Front Royal Police Department (FRPD); FRPD Police Chief Kahle Magalis; Jen Avery of Jenspiration, LLC; George McIntyre of the Apple House; and Warren County Sheriff Mark Butler. Each person was challenged to raise $500 to earn the “honor” of sitting in the pitch burst. The top fundraiser was Jennifer Avery with $600!
Though a passing storm halted activities briefly, it did not subdue the crowd gathered. Some headed inside to partake in the activities there, some stayed under the pavilion and finished up their face painting and pumpkin painting, and some even went home to wait out the storm and then returned.
Organizer and Warren Coalition Executive Director Christa Shifflett estimated that approximately 675 people attended the event. “This is the first time we’ve ever run out of pumpkins!” she exclaimed. Several agencies ran out of materials/prizes, and even the food and drinks came close to running out. The Coalition took a leap of faith this year, lowering the price of the event from $5 per child to just $1 per child before soliciting sponsors. This was done in recognition of difficulties many families are facing in today’s world.
Fortunately, additional sponsors stepped up to ensure that the costs of the event were covered, including: Front Royal Dental Care, Marilyn King of Avery Hess Realty, Michelle Napier of CBM Mortgage, Cool Tech Heating & Air, Code Jamboree, Front Royal Elks Lodge #2382, Fraternal Order of Police Front Royal-Warren County Lodge #33, and Warren County Parks and Recreation. Limeton United Methodist Church also sent in a sponsorship, which wasn’t received until after the event.
“I am deeply grateful to all of our amazing volunteers—especially those who sat in the Pitch Burst!—and my wonderful staff for making this event a success,” said Christa. “And of course we are thankful for our sponsors for making the event possible. Having the support of the community to put on an event like this means everything. We couldn’t do it on our own.” Christa also expressed appreciation to “Card My Yard” for the last-minute promotional signage they provided over the weekend, which helped to draw a lot of attention.