This past Saturday, close to 250 people filled Bester Elementary School to celebrate young families at Babypalooza 2017! The event was planned by a committee comprised of staff from Bester Community of Hope, Early Childhood Advisory Council, Washington County Safe Kids, and the Towson University nursing program at USMH. The focus was on supporting and celebrating families while providing information on parenting, child development and family living in the neighborhood. The event was possible due to ongoing financial support from the Washington County Department of Social Services and the Fletcher Foundation.
Special guest host for the event was WDVM news anchor Tasmin Mahfuz, who connected with kids and families and helped announce various door prizes for the event. Tasmin shared that she “loved being around so many wonderful families and their cute kids!” Thanks to Scholastic, Clifford the Big Red Dog even made a special appearance during lunch, swooping down to meet and take photos with children who often stood back in stunned amazement. The Hagerstown Artists Group was doing intricate face painting as well as belly painting for expectant mothers. One mother getting her belly painted cried tears of joy when her name was drawn to receive a baby basket provided by Meritus Health.
Randy Scott, manager of Chick-Fil-A in Hagerstown, and his crew graciously donated and served 300 boxed lunches to the crowd and vendors for lunch. “Chick Fil A has a reputation of giving and it’s about stewardship. Scripture says ‘to whom much is given much is expected” and in the case of Babypalooza, it’s about magnifying the impact on the community in such a way that if we can help get more people through the door, then more people have the opportunity to learn and be connected with resources to help their families.”
One mother with an elementary age student was at the event celebrating her expectant newborn. She related that she never expected to be pregnant at this point in her life and was in need of some additional support for her child that was due soon. There was a donated stroller provided from a partner and the mother was emotional in sharing her gratitude; she was even able to bond with another parent at her table while eating lunch. They were relieved to make a connection with each other and see that they aren’t alone in their unique parenting situations. Two other parents were already connected on social media, both attended the event and brought in clothes for an exchange sponsored by Children In Need. They ended up trading items unaware that they were both in need of what the other had to offer.
Many attendees were excited to find out about ways to address safety issues in the home. Several related that they were learning about safe sleep for the first time and others expressed surprise to find out that the batteries in some children’s books/toys could burn their children. “I thought it was an urban legend” said one parent. Electric outlet plugs, drawer latches, and other supplies were available to improve the child safety in the home.
No one walked away empty handed as guests filled their bags with information on parenting, early learning, health and safety as well as complimentary items from a variety of vendors. The Knit Wits, a local crocheting group, donated handmade baby blankets and accessories that were also given away for free at each table. Guests were able to connect with local providers, gain valuable information, and had the opportunity to learn about services and supports available in their community. Local parent Robin Hines said, “It was awesome and (there were) so many community resources. Need to do this more often and bring the families and their children together.”
THANK YOU to each organization and partner who made this event a first class experience for families, we hope to see you again next year!
Special thanks to all of our wonderful community partners who joined us as vendors to provide education, linkages to local resources, supplies to take home as well as provide some on site entertainment: WCPS Birth to Five; Head Start of Washington County; YMCA of Hagerstown; The Washington County Department of Social Services, the Family Center of Washington County, Washington County Healthy Families, Maryland EXCELS, Washington County Health Department, Washington County Free Library, Meritus Labor and Delivery, Priority Partners, Southside Pediatrics, The Children’s Doctor, Bright Eyes Early Learning Center, Maryland Physicians Care, New Covenant Church Independent Fellowship and the Towson University Nursing Program
Several vendors were also donors of special door prizes along with other community partners including: Dr. Browns’; Shop N’ Save; San Mar Pajama project; Safe Kids; Southside Pediatrics; Hagerstown Artists Group; Community Free Clinic of Washington County; Hub at USMH; Chick Fil A; Family Healthcare; New Covenant Fellowship Independent Church ; Priority Partners; Birth to Five; Kids First Swim School; Pediatric Movement Center; Holly Luther; PNC Bank; the Knit Wits; Ready at Five; Otterbein United Methodist Church; Children in Need; Connie Connolly; Meritus Health; Mental Health Association – Healthy New Moms; Discovery Station; Frederick Pediatric Dentistry and Wells Fargo Bank.