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Back-to-School Rally called a success
A member of the Long County E-Z Rider Club helps an eager youngster on the saddle. - photo by Photo by Alena Parker.
Continuing its 10-year streak of success, last weekend's 11th annual Back to School rally provided good time its target audience but also impacted the community and with its goal to get students off to a good start.
Over 15,000 community youth, their families, community leaders and the general public gathered in Riceboro's Briar Bay Park, enjoying free hamburgers and hot dogs of the grill and clutching colorful Sno-Cones.
Besides free food, the annual summer extravaganza highlights its free school supplies, games and entertainment.
In a fun, relaxed atmosphere, school-age children relish in the last weeks of summer vacation while committing to bring the same energy and excitement to the next academic year.
Project Reach God's Anointed Now Generation (GANG) hosts the event with Levonia Lecounte as the executive director.
"It's super compared to last year," Lecounte said after the formal program ended.
A line-up of community leaders, including Riceboro mayor Bill Austin and Liberty County school superintendent Dr. Judy Scherer participated in the opening ceremonies.
And in line with its "Hoops and Alley Oops for Education," theme, Buffy Coleman, a former Harlem Wizards basketball player, was the guest speaker.
Coleman stirred 16-year old Omari Walthour.
Walthour explained how impressed he was with the basketball player's persistent attitude during a sport injury.
"It looked like a bad situation, but he didn't quit," he explained.
Walthour's newfound determination was exactly what LeCounte was looking to accomplish with the Rally.
"I'm hoping we instill a positive outlook," she explained. "I'm praying they go back to school with the mindset that even if it's hard, I'm going to work at it until I get it."
While monitoring safety on the water slide, Walthour concluded the Rally going "pretty good."
He has been part of the outreach program for the past three years.
"I think it's wonderful to see something that can help equip us and help get us ready for school," he said.
From horseback riding to face painting and bouncy castles to water slides, Rally goers were also free to explore informational booths that scattered the park, including free health screenings.
"We're here to help the total person," she explained. "Now is an opportunity to know that there are resources out there...there is hope."
Deborah Dawson with the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority explained how the Rally's purpose paralleled its chapter current focus in physical and mental health awareness.
"Today we just did an overall brochure for children and adolescents and adults, just covering everything," she said.
In addition to food for thought, the organization also gave out cold bottles of water.
Al Porter of the Long County E-Z Riders thought it a privilege to be able to introduce many kids to horseback riding, giving the youngsters a different kind of outlet and "something else to do."
"A lot of the kids were raised up in areas where they don't have access that (horses)," he explained.
Lecounte, also the parent involvement coordinator at Lyman Hall Elementary, hoped the Rally would also gear up parents to take an active role in their children's education.
"They don't have to do a whole lot," she said. "Just show up at the school every so often."
Carla Daniels decided to bring her 12-year daughter, Lakia, to the Rally.
Daniels most appreciates "the togetherness of the program," and the way the community "put forth the effort to give back to the children."
"It's a good thing, a real good thing," she said.
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