On October 22, 2016, close to 500 people filled Bester Elementary to celebrate young families at Babypalooza 2016! The event was planned by a committee comprised of staff from Bester Community of Hope, San Mar Children’s Home, Early Childhood Advisory Council, Washington County Health Department, Washington County Safe Kids, and Towson University with a focus on supporting and celebrating families while providing information on parenting, child development and family living. The event received additional financial and operating support from Casey Family Programs, the Washington County Health Department, the Washington County Department of Social Services and the Fletcher Foundation.
To add a little fun to the day, expectant mothers were able to have local artists paint fun themes on their pregnant bellies and capture the moment with Youngblood Studios for a pregnancy portrait. “This is so cool, I wanted to do something like this for my first pregnancy, but didn’t think anyone around here did it!” stated one pregnant mom who was overdue and had a “times up” them with the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland airbrushed on her mid-section. Artists also brightened the day of children in attendance through face painting and some families were able to take fun photos with the photo booth. Jeff Ridgeway, children’s librarian, led story time throughout the day as well. Adam Donius, manager of Chick-Fil-A in Chambersburg, and his crew graciously donated and served 300 boxed lunches to the crowd for lunch.
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 Knitwits, a local crotcheting group, donated handmade baby blankets that were also given away for free. In addition, 64 cases of baby formula worth over $5,000 donated by Shop n Save was dispersed with the remaining cases benefiting the food pantry at South Hagerstown High School. Guests connected with local providers, gained valuable information, and had the opportunity to learn about services and supports available. Providers and services present at the event included Washington County Safe Kids, Poison Control, Birth – 5, S.T.E.P.S, Healthy Families Washington County, Dad’s Connection, Washington County Family Center, Kaplan University, Meritus Health, Washington County Health Department, Towson University, Priority Partners, Simply 4 Kidz, Community Free Clinic, Family Healthcare, Southside Pediatrics, Hagerstown Pediatrics, Partners in Pediatrics, Washington County Free Library, Emmanuel United Methodist Church, Department of Social Services, MD EXCELS, Head Start of Washington County, Professional Childcare Association of Washington County, Gateway Early Learning Center, Bright Eyes Early Learning Center, Kids First Swim, CASA, Mental Health Association of MD, Youngblood Studios, Lesley Whalley and fellow artists, Zero to Three, Early Childhood Advisory Council and The HUB at USMH.
Attendees who collected stamps from at least 20 vendors were eligible to win one of five grand prizes which included a travel system donated by Bester Community of Hope, car seat donated by Safe Kids Washington County, Pack n Play donated by Rural Children’s Fund, birthday party package donated by Discovery Station and a Thirty-One loaded diaper bag donated by Holly Luther and friends. Also, every attendee was entered into a door prize drawing where awards were made every 10 minutes including board books donated by The HUB at USMH and Washington County Free Library, three baby supply baskets donated by Meritus Health, a snack basket and flowers donated by Emmanuel United Methodist Church, and an Inside/Out movie and guide donated by Simply 4 Kidz, Baby Wellness Basket donated by Priority Partners, Toy Basket donated by South side Pediatrics, Baby Basket and Massage donated by Bodyworks Massage Center and Gift & Wellness Shop, two baby baskets donated by Hagerstown Area Pregnancy Center, several giant teddy bears donated by Valerie Zehringer and a baby basket donated by Professional Childcare Association.
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!
Photography donated by Alan Siefert, San Mar volunteer