The Hinesville YMCA hosted its inaugural back-to-school bash on Saturday, July 23.
There was a great turnout at the event, which included people not only from the YMCA but also other businesses ranging from laser tag, bounce houses, live music and horseback riding to Diversity Health, the Boy Scouts, dental care, haircuts and more.
Other businesses represented included T-Mobile, the American Diabetes Association, Leaf Filter Gutter Protection, the U.S. Army, Omni Financial, Amerigroup healthcare, Keep Liberty Beautiful, Premier Counseling Services, CareSource healthcare, Designs Unlimited Boutique, Pearlsz Pastriez, Think Big Youth Organization, the Travis Manion Foundation, Georgia Southern University, Sweet Spice Restaurant, Bless 4 Less BBQ, Sacred Flame Candles and the Liberty County police and fire departments.
The YMCA also gave out backpacks for families who may not be able to afford them.
Dawn Marie Gilliam, district coordinator for the YMCA, spoke at the event and gave her reasons for having the bash.
“We here at the Y believe in a total outreach for the community,” Gilliam said. “We have a lot of services and a lot of people needing services, and we’re trying to bridge that gap and bring them together.”
Gilliam also said she hoped the event would be equal parts fun and educational.
“We hope that the people here have a fun day, but also learn, get some information and get some education and bond with the community.”
Tracy Jefferson, president of the Think Big Youth Organization, was also on hand. Think Big is a community-based youth mentorship program designed to allow youth to explore and discuss life experiences in a safe and nurturing environment.
Jefferson discussed her reasons for attending the event and her thoughts on children returning to school.
“It’s always our expectation to touch the lives of parents and children in the community and to spread positivity,” she said. “The first day is the best day and the last day will be their best day for school.”
Cynthia Sterling, childcare director for the YMCA, held an orientation for families interested in enrolling their children in different programs at the Y. Sterling facilitates the before- and after-care programs of eight schools in Liberty County and one in Long County. She is also involved in facilitating the military balls and Parents Nights Out, and her services help provide camps anytime there’s a holiday during the school year, as well as summer camp.
A native of West Palm Beach, Florida, Sterling is very active with the YMCA. After completing her Peace Corps experience in the country of Samoa, her sister was stationed in Fort Stewart and she was looking for her next opportunity — and she found it at the YMCA.
“This is my soul’s work,” she said. “This is my true purpose here on God’s green earth — anything dealing with children and community service.”
Sterling expressed her hopes not only that everyone would have a great time but also that they would take something away from the event and remember that the YMCA is a safe haven for those who need it.
“We’re not only just for children, we’re not only just for the seniors, we’re not only just for middle age — we’re for everybody,” Sterling said. “No matter your age, sex or religion, when you come to this event, you leave with your heart full.”
For more photos from this event, check out our GALLERY.