The tenth annual Celebrate Kids Day on September 24th, hosted by Warren Coalition and Warren County Parks and Recreation, saw huge crowds in spite of a change in venue this year and the weekend appearance by Tropical Storm Ophelia.

While the move to the Health & Human Services Complex was expected and well-advertised, the large amount of rain forecasted for the weekend caused the Coalition to pivot, bringing the popular inflatable rides into the 15th Street Gym at the Health & Human Services Complex. Diversified Minds (Warren County Public Schools), which has a building on the same campus, graciously permitted some of the local agencies to move their tables into their conference room, allowing the event to spread out.

It was fortunate that they did so, as the gym, the “band room” where the face painting and pumpkin painting were taking place, and the conference room were all packed with people for most of the three-hour event. The pitch burst and petting zoo remained outside; the pony ride vendor canceled before the event began.

Organizers estimate that 800 to 900 people, including adults, attended the event. Inside the gym, children enjoyed various inflatable rides, including a giant slide, a moon bounce, an obstacle course, a rock wall, and a T-ball challenge. In addition, 200 children received a free pumpkin, with many of them painting the pumpkins and/or getting their faces festively painted. The gym was also home to several games, the cake and health walks, concessions, and tables and activities with the Salvation Army, Warren County Parks & Recreation, MeKari Sweets by Tiffany, and All-Star Legacy Cheer, which also gave demonstrations by various age groups.

Inside the Diversified Minds conference room, there were additional games and activities as well as additional tables hosted by local agencies: Department of Social Services, Girl Scouts, Phoenix Project, St. Luke’s Community Clinic, Randolph-Macon Academy, Community Connections, Warren County Sheriff’s Office, the Arc of Warren, and Northwestern Community Services Board.

In their travels from one building to another, children could pause to throw balls at the pitch burst, breaking 11-inch water balloons over eight enthusiastic volunteers who raised a combined total of $6400 for “honor” of having water balloons burst over their heads: Jen Avery of Jenspiration, LLC, Captain Crystal Cline of Front Royal Police Department (FRPD), Board of Supervisors Vice Chair Cheryl Cullers, FRPD Police Chief Kahle Magalis, George McIntyre of the Apple House, Kristen Pence of Warren County Veterinarian Clinic and Warren County School Board, Warren County Sheriff Office’s Lieutenant Robbie Seal (sitting in for Sheriff Mark Butler), and WZRV DJ Randy Woodward.

The Coalition held the $1 per child cost for the event for the second consecutive year. This was made possible by the sponsors who stepped up this year: Front Royal Dental Care, Front Royal Elks Lodge #2382, Fraternal Order of Police Front Royal-Warren County Lodge #33, Warren County Parks and Recreation, Front Royal Kiwanis, American Legion, and Auto Center. In addition to these, City National Bank covered the entire cost of the petting zoo!

Celebrate Kids Day would not have been possible without the additional organizations and businesses that provided valuable support. Card My Yard provided attention-grabbing signage to draw people to the new location. Horton’s Nursery and Garden Center worked hard to find pumpkins at the lowest possible price, and provided them at cost to the Coalition. Unity Masonic Lodge No 146 volunteers brought their grill and cooked up the burgers for the day. MeRaki Sweets by Tiffany donated a box of goodies for the cake walk, and Fox’s Pizza donated two pizzas and provided a discount on the rest. Martin’s provided a $50 gift card to help fund the food, and sent a volunteer over to assist with the event. Navy Federal Credit Union and Shenandoah University Women’s Field Hockey team provided many of the volunteers. When the weather prompted a need for a last-minute promotional push to let the community know that the event was still going to happen, Royal Examiner put it front-and-center in their news, and WZRV pushed it out as well.

“This is a true example of how a community can come together to make something good happen,” said Christa Shifflett, Executive Director of the Warren Coalition. “Warren County Parks & Recreation, Diversified Minds, our sponsors, local businesses, our pitch burst fundraisers, tons of community volunteers, parents who took time to bring their kids, and of course my amazing staff…everyone pitched in to do their part and make Celebrate Kids Day a success in spite of the weather. It literally brings tears to my eyes.”

Warren Coalition is a nonprofit agency established in 1994 to help fill the gaps in health care and substance abuse awareness to the community. The Coalition began under the guidance of Warren Memorial Hospital as an outreach project, but it has since grown and was incorporated in 2001.  The office is currently located in the Warren County Community Center.  Their mission is to make Warren County a safe, healthy, and drug free community through many programs and in collaboration with 15+ member agencies.