Wake Forest holds inaugural 'Kidsfest' for disabled children

By Pam Barrett
March 29, 2006

NOTE TO EDITORS: This is a community service event for children from The Children's Center for the Physically Disabled and The Special Children's School. It is NOT open to the general public. Media representatives must check in at the media table on Manchester Plaza behind Reynolda Hall to find out which children cannot be photographed.

Wake Forest University will host its inaugural spring festival, "KidsFest 2006: The Sky's the Limit!" for more than 300 children who attend The Children's Center for the Physically Disabled and The Special Children's School. The festival will be held on Manchester Plaza (formerly Magnolia Court) from 2 p.m. - 6 p.m. April 23 and will feature entertainment and a variety of age- and ability-appropriate activities for children with disabilities and their families. The event is not open to the public.

KidsFest is the creation of three campus volunteer organizations, Helping to Overcome Physical Expectations (HOPE), the Volunteer Service Corps (VSC) and the Disabilities Awareness Coalition (DAC).

According to Wake Forest junior Jonathan Barry, president of the HOPE Leadership Team and chair of the KidsFest Planning Committee, Wake Forest students have had such positive experiences volunteering at the two schools that they wanted to do something special for the children. "We wanted to do something to honor and celebrate these amazing children in our community because we are always struck by the optimism and inspiration that just radiates from them," Barry said.

During the festival, student volunteers will escort children through activities on Manchester Plaza. Student organizations, including several fraternities and sororities, Rotaract, the Anthony Aston Players, and others will sponsor carnival games such as oversized lawn bowling, fishing for prizes, basketball throws, a cakewalk, face painting and arts and crafts. The Demon Deacon mascot will be on hand to meet children, and various campus groups will present musical and dance performances. Healthy refreshments, as well as desserts, will also be provided.

"April 23 will be the first KidsFest, but it also marks the beginning of National Volunteer Week," Barry said. "This event will be a special reminder that volunteers do make a difference in their communities." Students plan to hold the event annually on the first day of National Volunteer Week and want the festival to become a popular service project for Wake Forest students similar to Project Pumpkin held on campus each fall.

Event organizers have also created commemorative T-shirts for KidsFest which will sell for $11. All proceeds from the shirts will be donated equally between The Children's Center and The Special Children's School.

The Children's Center for the Physically Disabled is a premier service provider and educational program in Winston-Salem for children with orthopedic physical disabilities and/or other long-term chronic health impairments.

The Special Children's School is a private, non-profit developmental day school located in Winston-Salem that serves children with and without special needs.

HOPE is a volunteer liaison organization and mentoring program between Wake Forest students and students at The Children's Center and the Special Children's School. Student volunteers provide weekly one-on-one mentoring for children to promote the academic, social and emotional development of each child.

The Volunteer Service Corps, founded in 1989, is a campus organization that facilitates humanitarian values, civic responsibility and community volunteerism among Wake Forest students, faculty and staff.

The Disabilities Awareness Coalition is a Wake Forest student group that seeks to raise and maintain awareness among university community members about disabilities and closely related issues through student advocacy, education and service to students with disabilities.

Corporate sponsors for KidsFest include Winston-Salem Tee's and ARAMARK Dining Services.

Interviews with KidsFest organizers and participating agency representatives can be arranged.

To arrange coverage, contact the News Service at (336) 758-5237.