BRADENTON -- Five hundred children from struggling families, many of them homeless, poured through the gates of McKechnie Field early Saturday for "Christmas in August," designed to help get them ready for the school year.
"It's great, it's wonderful," said Jackie Dolan, who brought her two sons, Jackie and Donovan, for haircuts, backpacks filled with school supplies, games and fun.
"Without this, I wouldn't be able to get them anything for back to school," Dolan said.
In addition to the children, several hundred adult family members also took part in Christmas in August, some of them to look for help finding a job, or to get a meal. Sharon Barhorst and Kim Fitzgerald co-chaired the event for the
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Bradenton Kiwanis Club in partnership with the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, the Manatee School District and about 20 other community groups.
"I just talked to fellow who hadn't eaten in several days," Barhorst said of the need for the event.
The Bradenton Kiwanis Club began the program four years ago when Tom Moseley was club president.
"It's a blessing what they are doing," said Sandra Cummings, a grandmother who attended with several other family members. "There are lots of people in this day and age who need this help."
Also offered free of charge Saturday were vaccinations, eye, dental and medical screenings, free books, fans, an opportunity for kids to make their own pinwheels, and more.
Beall's Betty Schwartzinger, a division vice president, also participated in Christmas in August.
"Anything for the kids of Manatee County. We're thrilled to be part of this," she said.
James A. Jones Jr., Herald reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter @jajones1.