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Elementary Extravaganza gives away 125 backpacks

It may be a little early for the county’s youth to even start thinking about heading back to school. But the Butler Baptist Association is sending them off well equipped both physically and spiritually with the third annual Elementary Extravaganza.

The event, held Sunday at First Baptist Church, was an opportunity for the county’s students in K5 through sixth grade to receive the word of God, as well as one of 500 backpacks that the association raised for the purpose of being distributed among the county’s schools.

Several popular entertainment staples of the Elementary Extravaganza returned in 2017, including a bounce house, balloon animals, face painting, slides and a dunking tank–whose not-so-unfortunate victims included GHS head football and basketball coaches Josh McLendon and Marcus Mickles respectively, as well as GHS alumni and Auburn Tiger Marlon Davidson.

Abbie Ballew, one of this year’s event organizers, said that participants enjoyed this year’s carnival-like atmosphere, even if the turnout was a bit lower than anticipated.

“In my personal opinion, it’s because we had to have it so early,” Ballew said. “There were so many conflicts with things going on at the church later in the summer, so we had to have it a little bit earlier.  I felt like maybe people weren’t quite in the let’s-go-back-to-school mindset.

“But I thought it was fabulous, even if we didn’t give away as many backpacks Sunday night. I think the kids who were there had an excellent time, and I’ve already had phone calls this morning from people who just didn’t know about it.  We were able to send backpacks to some of the Georgiana and McKenzie churches that were represented so that they can distribute them on that end of the county, so the backpacks are going to get in the hands of the kids.”

The extravaganza moved to the church’s interior for its second half as the McKenzie Baptist Church put on a puppet show, much to the delight of their young audience. 

Afterward, to conclude the event backpacks were distributed to children in attendance who had previously registered by filling out forms with their name, address, age and the school they attended.

Ballew said that this process was to ensure that the program reached the youth as intended.

“My desire whenever I started this was to let the word of God be spoken to the child,” she said.  “It’s so much more than about getting a backpack.”

Only 125 of the 500 backpacks were given away Sunday, though Ballew said there are plans to distribute the remaining backpacks to students before school returns in the fall.

Many backpacks were left at the Butler Baptist Association office, as well as a remaining number of bags at First Baptist Church.  Additionally, some were distributed to churches in Georgiana and McKenzie to be spread at their discretion so that students in the southern half of the county have equal access to school supplies.

“We’re going to take them to several different events that the schools are doing to help get them into the hands of the kids who need them,” Ballew added.

“Come get the backpacks that are left.  We would love for them to get into the hands of the kids before they get to school.”