Youth Rally will feature free food, Disney characters and petting zoo

A student receives a backpack at a past Youth Rally.

Parish groups come together to get students ready for school

New Orleans Saints wide receivers coach Curtis Johnson and St. Charles Parish Judge Timothy Marcel will be guest speakers for a crowd of more than 700 children and 2,500 total in attendance at this Saturday’s Youth Rally in Luling.

The Youth Rally will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at R.K. Smith Middle School. The first 700 children in attendance will receive free backpacks and school supplies donated by United Way of St. Charles.

The event is coordinated by the St. Charles Parish Department of Community Services in collaboration with the parish’s government, school district, Sheriff’s Office, A Safe Space of St. Charles and Blessed to be a Blessing Ministries.

“We’ve been doing this for about 15 years,” said Eliza Eugene, Blessed to be a Blessing founder. “United Way brought us together with A Safe Space (formerly the Alpha Daughters of Zion) and along with the parish’s government, schools and Sheriff’s Office it’s been a wonderful team effort that’s allowed us to execute this event with great success. We’ve had such a good turnout before and we expect to again.”

The children are in for more of a treat than the school supplies alone – but those supplies can be a big lift for families trying to make ends meet just before the start of the school year, which begins less than a week after the rally.

“The average cost to send a child to school is $200,” said Eugene. “So with supplies provided, we can relieve a family of some of that responsibility while making sure children have the tools they need for school and a healthy start.”

Creating an environment that gives a child every opportunity to succeed in school can go a long way to determining their path.

“It means so much. If we can help a child prepare for school, it’s that much more likely they go on to have success. They’re less likely to end up in the juvenile justice system. It’s why this is such an important cause for all of us,” Eugene said.

“It’s laid out so kids can not only come get supplies, but have a great time as well and a fantastic experience.” — Eliza Eugene

Beyond the supplies though, event coordinators and backers have gone the extra mile to make the rally a fun and memorable experience for its attendees.

There will be free food – hot dogs, ice cream, pizza, snowballs and cupcakes among them – and characters in attendance including Daffy and Donald Duck, the Cookie Monster and Hello Kitty. There will also be several fun activities, including face painting, a mechanical bull and an obstacle course. There will even be a petting zoo, which might attract some animal loving teens and adults along with the surely excited children.

“It’s what we call a ‘kid-centric’ day,” Eugene said. “It’s laid out so kids can not only come get supplies, but have a great time as well and a fantastic experience.”

Eugene credited local industry, along with the United Way, for making much of these extra bells and whistles possible.

Disney characters will be on hand for visitors to R.K. Smith for Saturday’s Youth Rally.

“They’ve always stepped up to the plate, along with United Way, with these donations that make it possible to ensure we meet the needs of kids in our community,” Eugene said.

In addition to the guest speakers, there will be break-out sessions to discuss the importance of education, social media safety, substance abuse prevention and health and wellness.

A blood mobile will also be on hand for those who would like to make a positive difference through a donation.

To receive the school supplies, each child must be accompanied by a parent and must be a parish resident.

Families will have the opportunity to learn about the services available in the community. Representatives from several organizations will be on site to share information about their programs and resources.

A festive atmosphere awaits

  • The annual St. Charles Parish Youth Rally and United Way of St. Charles/B2BB Backpack Extravaganza will be held Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at R.K. Smith Middle School.
  • The first 700 children arriving will receive free school supplies courtesy of United Way of St. Charles.
  • Guest speakers will include Curtis Johnson, wide receivers coach of the New Orleans Saints, and Judge Timothy Marcel.


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