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Motivating students for upcoming classes
Back-to-School Rally Saturday
Shayla Wilson, 3, collects crayons and coloring books at one of several booths set up at the rally. - photo by Photo by Frenchi Jones
School seemed to start early on Saturday as nearly 500 school-aged children, carrying backpacks, gathered at Briar Bay Park near Riceboro for Project Reach’s 12th annual Back-to-School Rally.
The rally was promoted by the Project’s God’s Anointed Now Generation, a non-profit organization established in 1998 to give Liberty County’s children a positive influence, organizers said.
“We have to remember that an unfilled life is a wasted life,” GANG member Charlene Burford said to the crowd.
Gripping crayons and tablets given to them by more than 51 of the rally’s sponsors, the children scrambled around the park to visit each booth, but not before being motivated by several influential members of the Liberty County Community.
“Happy new year, everyone,” school board Chairwoman Lily Baker shouted, “Happy new year. I am just so grateful for you being here today and that God put [Project Reach] here in Liberty County to do all of this for our children.
“When the school year begins, parents, please be a good example to your children. That means denying yourself sometimes,” Baker said, “and children, learn all you can, while you can.”
Rep. Al Williams (D-Midway) offered similar sentiments.
“You can be anything you want to be,” he said. “No more excuses! Every one of you can be a Barack Obama.”
One guest didn’t have to say much to get the kids’ attention.
Instead, Larry “Gator” Rivers, a Savannah native, used his 16 years of experience with the Harlem Globe Trotters to keep every eye on him.
While dribbling and spinning a basketball through his fingers, Rivers told the children “we did all of this to inspire you.”
“To be good as a community, to be good as a ‘gang’ or a team, you have to teach each member to be as good as they can be,” he said. “Always respect your coach, respect your teammates and respect God.”
Mamie Hassel said she was happy she had decided to bring her children.
“We heard about this and just decided to come,” she said. “This is great.”
There were more than 500 backpacks, 1,000 pencils distributed and an estimated 1,000 hotdog and hamburgers provided during the event. The rally cost Project Reach and their sponsors nearly $ 7,000.
Representatives of the Georgia Forestry Commission said they look forward to helping every year.
“Anything we can do to help the kids with their education, we’re more than happy to just do it,” ranger David Duke said. “We’ve been here every year since the beginning and we’ll be here every year thereafter.”
Lavonia LeCounte, the rally’s official organizer, said the support for this year’s event was greater than previous years.  
“I am deeply touched by the experience,”” she said. “I think that the people in the communities are finally seeing that we’re serious about what we’re doing and I see our children, in the future, getting more involved … I am just speechless.”

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