PALMETTO -- Children left with big smiles, full bellies and a backpack filled with the school essentials strapped to their backs.
Hundreds came out Saturday afternoon for Summer Slam 2015 at the Palmetto Youth Center. The event gave away about 500 backpacks filled with school supplies and provided lunch for nearly 800 people, including children and their families
Thirteen-year-old Kiyah Taylor was all smiles as he sat with backpack strapped on while enjoying time with friends after having lunch.
"It was fun. I enjoyed it," Kiyah said. "It's good because people that couldn't afford backpacks and food could come here, which was caring."
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Organizer Tennile Moore said parents and fellow volunteers told her it was the best year yet for the annual event.
"We always predict to serve at least 500 kids and 200 parents," Moore said. "The weather was nice and worked with us."
Back-to-school supply lists are long and often intimidating to many parents, Moore said.
"We just want to provide them with the basic needs," Moore said.
Familes at the event had a good time with bounce houses and a live disc jockey with hot dogs and hamburgers for lunch.
Manatee County Sheriff's Office Col. Rick Wells manned the grill. Well became involved with the group four years ago during his tenure as Palmetto police chief and has been at every back-to-school event.
"We have a unique opportunity to help the community," Wells said.
It's important for children to start the school year right with materials they need, he said.
"The families that can't afford it can come here," Wells said. "It's a win-win."
Many local organizations helped make the event possible including Kiwanis Club of North Manatee.
Xtavia Bailey, secretary for
the Kiwanis Club of North Manatee, helped make the event possible.
"We are not reinventing the wheel. If we can work together you can serve more," Bailey said.
A local McDonald's donated 100 cheeseburgers, she said, and asked to be part of the event next year. The most important aspect to see children get their school supplies though, she added.
"They can't be successful without their tools," Bailey said.
Several members of the Palmetto Police Department were at the event, including Chief Scott Tyler.
"It's a community event and I'm all about community," Tyler said. "It serves a purpose. It helps a lot of families."
The event was so successful all the backpacks were given away by 2 p.m. when the rain clouds started rolling in, and those involved started packing it up.
Jakiera Nelson, 13, and Jariah Nelson, 12, said they were happy to spend time with friends in addition to scoring new supplies. Many children at then event reconnected with school friends they hadn't seem all summer, sparking excitement about the coming school year.
Tationna Clark, 13, said she was as happy about the supplies in the bag as she was the backpack itself.
"The event was good for kids. Not everybody can get backpacks," Tationna said.
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.