By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Hundreds of children of all ages ignored the soggy turf of Houston Avery Park and the chilly winds that blew across the municipal greenspace on Saturday, December 15, and attended Atmore Youth League’s third annual Christmas in the Park event.
Organizer Don Taylor said the weather didn’t seem to faze those who donned coats, scarves and other warm-weather clothing to come out for mass quantities of free food, a heaping helping of Gospel entertainment, numerous door prizes and the hundreds of free toys that were the biggest attraction for youngsters and families looking to enhance the Christmas experience for their children.
“We usually have about 300 to 400 folks,” Taylor said as temperatures hovered in the mid-40 degree range. “This is actually the best weather we’ve had. The other two years have been really cold, so this is not too bad. A lot of people came out early, ate, then left. So I’m not really sure how many people were here tonight, but we gave out 189 toys and 600 servings of food and drink.”
Youngsters ran through the semi-dark park, splashing through or jumping over small patches of standing water and trying to avoid mud puddles as they checked out the bouncy house, swings and other playground equipment or lined up to have their picture taken with Santa.
Before the toys were given out, two bicycles were awarded to lucky ticket-holders, and another youngster — Cameron Lucas — earned a nice reward for having posted honor-roll grades and exhibiting good behavior at school. The Rachel Patterson Elementary School second-grader student’s ticket was pulled from dozens of entries, making him the winner of a new laptop computer.
“This is usually a separate program from Christmas in the Park; we just merged it into this event this year,” Taylor explained. “They show us their report card and we give them a raffle ticket. It’s for any honor roll student that wants to participate, no matter what school they go to.”
Taylor said several local individuals and businesses helped foot the bill for or helped with the outdoor holiday gathering, including All of God’s Children Daycare, Gloria’s Creations, Heavenly Delight, K Sade Treats, Gold’s BBQ, and State Line Pawn Shop.
“We branched out, with one person or group making soup, others looking after toys, others handling other things,” he said. “We talked with the community and got the community involved, and we got all these people out here together on a Saturday night.”