Kids enjoy United Way’s Day of Action at YMCA

Published 6:36 pm Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Screams erupted through the YMCA gym Tuesday morning as Michele Connelly led 500 children through a modified version of “If You’re Happy and You Know It” before sending them off to enjoy the various activities at the United Way of West Central Mississippi’s Day of Action.

The event, now in its third year, brings together children from throughout the area for a day of games and activities to promote literacy and healthy living.

“I think it gets bigger and better every year because the community as a whole knows that when they come in here, they are coming for quality fun,” Connelly, the executive director of the United Way, said. “It is something to do in the summer that encourages children to live healthy, encourages them to read and make smart decision. They are learning that in the process of having lots of fun.”

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United Ways throughout the country hosted Day of Actions Tuesday and Connelly said each chooses what their focus is. The local United Way partnered with 25 local businesses to provide activities for children including snow cones, a bouncy house, crafts, cornhole and more.

“What we do is, we as a community try to figure out what is it your community wants,” Connelly said. “What is it they need? What are they excited about? I think it is definitely easy to say that our community has bought into our children and making sure our children have what they need to be successful.”

Connelly estimated about 500 children attended Tuesday as daycares brought children for a few hours of fun and they had the most walk-ins in the program’s three-year history.

“We made 400 packets,” Connelly said. “We ran out of 400 packets and we are making other packets as children are coming. The first year we had about 300, last year we had about 400 and this year we have about 500. It just keeps growing in size.”

Jackson Street Community Center brought 22 children to the event where they had the chance to win prizes by playing games sponsored by Trustmark, Entergy, Lorelei Books and more.

“We are having a great time. I really love this. They just said they are so tired and I am too,” Malinda Blackmore, a counselor at Jackson Street, said. “I really wanted them to come out and get a chance to mingle with everybody else because we are usually in the center all day long. They have had a ball. They are ready to tear their bags up to get in them. They said they have had fun and they want to go around again.”

Connelly said the overall goal of the event is to lay the groundwork to pull children out of poverty by introducing them to bankers, doctors and judges while they learn about literacy and how to live a healthy lifestyle.

“The last three years in our service area, which is the five counties and the one parish, 6 percent of the children have been pulled out of poverty,” she said. “It takes a lot of work for a lot of people and it takes a lot of building blocks and it takes opportunities like this.”