The event, hosted by Patterson Joint Unified School District and the Patterson Recreation and Community Services Department, allowed families to meet with school administrators, principals, teachers and crossing guards in a casual environment. At the same time, they could learn about child safety and get their children fingerprinted, following in the tradition of the city’s inaugural safety fair last October.
Superintendent Phil Alfano of the local school district came up with the idea for the collaborative event as a fun way to help kick off the new school year, which began Monday, Aug. 13. It was wonderful to see local organizations come together for the local children, said Ruben Piña, president of the PJUSD board.
“It’s great to see all the support we are getting from the county, Gallo Center for the Arts and principals,” Piña said. “The ultimate goal is to bring the message that education is for everybody. We have the support from the city, county and organizations.”
Under the shaded picnic area of the park, representatives from the KlaasKids Foundation fingerprinted 211 children with the help of City Councilwoman Deborah Novelli, with long lines forming throughout the day. It was the second visit for the foundation, which fingerprinted 212 local children last year
Last year’s safety fair came in the wake of the deaths of local youngsters Juliani Cardenas, 4, and Hussan Williams, 10, who were killed by adults in separate incidents in 2011. Previously, the city had sponsored a similar Fall Family Festival for eight years in observance of Red Ribbon Week.
Novelli met Marc Klaas of the KlaasKids Foundation last year when he helped distribute fliers when Juliani Cardenas was snatched from his grandmother’s arms.
The foundation, headed up by Marc and Violet Klaas, has fingerprinted children and provided safety information to families since starting in 1994 — a year after Marc’s daughter, Polly Klaas, 12, was kidnapped from home and later found murdered.
“The reason I presented the child safety fair idea to (Patterson City) council last year is because I didn’t want Juliani Cardenas and Hassan Williams’ deaths to be in vain, Novelli said Monday. “The whole hope behind the fingerprinting is that in the event a child goes missing, if they leave their fingerprints or DNA, then law enforcement would be able to have a trail to follow.”
Adrienne Chaney, director of Patterson’s Recreation and Community Services Department, said putting the child safety fair and back to school party together was a good idea.
“Partnering with the school district to put on this community event shows the value of collaboration,” she said.
Saturday’s event also provided opportunities to learn about local schools and various local services. Information booths lined North Park, with all nine schools in the local district represented. Some featured games, such as a beanbag toss run by Las Palmas Elementary School and a putting green run by Northmead Elementary School. In addition to the Gallo Center for the Arts, several local organizations including the Center for Human Services, Helping Our Westside, Patterson Recreation and Community Services and clubs from Patterson High School such as FFA and Athletic boosters were present.
Representatives from Patterson Fire and the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s departments were also on hand to talk to area residents.
School officials, school board trustees and Miss Patterson and her court handed out 850 backpacks that the district had won from a Costco contest. Alysonn Cassidy, director of district afterschool programs, said the district received the backpacks after an unidentified person from Apricot Valley Elementary School entered the district in the contest. Officials also gave out tickets for prizes such as gift cards to student attendees.
Volunteers from Helping Our Westside, a local club that works for children, distributed 350 packages of school supplies with pens, paper, crayons and folders before running out before noon.
As music blared, children participated in various contests on Plaza Circle, including a hula-hoop competition, water balloon toss, and a race to pop balloons and rode a giant slide.
Near the picnic benches in the park, Lions Club members cooked up and distributed 1,000 free hot dogs and gave out free water to children and their parents.
City Councilman Dominic Farinha said the block party was a wonderful event.
“It’s a great preparation for the children and their families to start up for the school year,” Farinha said.
Anastasia Gonzalez, 13, a Creekside Middle School student, and her sister, 15-year-old Patterson High student Esther Gonzalez, walked the booths in the park.
“We’re here to support the schools and get supplies,” Esther Gonzalez said.
Cheryl Young, a member of the Patterson High Athletic Boosters, described the event as “fabulous.”
“This is absolutely great for the community and for the parents to come out, meet school administrators, have fun and learn about Patterson High groups such as FFA and Boosters,” Young said.
Local resident Verita Emmons, who attended with her grandson, Arriken, a 9-year-old fourth-grader at Las Palmas school, said she was pleased with the block party.
“I visited every booth,” she said. “It’s a great event.”
“My favorite thing is the fun,” Arriken added.
Photos from the event will be added to this story later this week.
• Contact Maddy Houk at 892-6187, ext. 22, or firstname.lastname@example.org.