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Kids wrap up summer vacation with 'Back To School Bash'

| Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013, 7:34 a.m.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
From left, Dallas Price, 8, Angello Reddix, 9, La'Montae Jones, 8, and Travis Lasko, 11, win the tug-of-war game at the Back To School Bash at Roosevelt Park in Arnold on Monday, Aug. 26, 2013.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Patience Johnson, 8, of New Kensington shows her freshly polished fingernails, done by volunteers at the Back To School Bash at Roosevelt Park in Arnold on Monday, Aug. 26, 2013.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Jaida Dobbins, 5, of New Kensington jumps in the Bouncing House inflatable apparatus at the Back To School Bash at Roosevelt Park in Arnold on Monday, Aug. 26, 2013.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Volunteer barber Rich Knuckles of New Kensington gives a free haircut to Matthew Guy, 9, of Arnold at the Back To School Bash at Roosevelt Park in Arnold on Monday, Aug. 26, 2013.

As Dominique Ballard, 9, waited in line for her turn to use the moon bounce at Roosevelt Park in Arnold, she couldn't help but think ahead to the start of school next week.

“I'm going to be in fourth grade,” Ballard said in her tiny voice, as she soaked up the fleeting fun of summer. “I'm excited for school.

“Science is my favorite subject.”

Ballard was one of more than 150 children expected to attend Monday's “Back to School Bash,” which provided soon-to-be students with backpacks filled with supplies, free haircuts, food and fun.

“We're here for the less fortunate kids,” said Gerry Douglas, one of the event's organizers, as she and Cedric Knuckles helped register children for their free lunch. “We raised money all summer for this event.

“We're not connected to any group; we're just here for the kids who can't afford this stuff,” she said. “We'd like to do this every year.”

Sequit Smith, another event organizer, said one of the best parts of the bash was seeing how many people volunteered their time.

“They know how important the first day of school is,” she said. “These are people who care.

“It's great to see who has the heart big enough to come over and help out.”

Smith said the event was also taking donations for Maiyanna Clemons-McCarthy, a 3-year-old girl with a rare form of brain cancer.

“Anytime someone gets together in our community, we take care of everyone,” Smith said.

Wendy Douglas said she brought her children to the event just so they could have some fun before school starts.

“We already got backpacks and school supplies,” she said. “We're just here to enjoy the day.

“I think it's great what they're doing here. I know there are a lot of people in the community that need the help for the school year.”Claudette Manley said she volunteered to run the moon bounce just so she could see the smiles on the faces of the children.

“It's all about the kids,” she said as she helped usher the children from the line into the giant inflated playhouse. “Any happiness you can bring to a child is important.

“It's amazing how this was all put together.”

R.A. Monti is a freelance writer.

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