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Back-to-school block party set for this Friday

The fifth annual free back-to-school event put on by the non-profit organization Don’t Sleep is set for 12 to 9 p.m. Friday at Millennium Park.

Ra’Shea Ford, founder of Don’t Sleep, said the annual event is a way for families of all social and cultural backgrounds to unite, have fun and eat good food.

It’s also a time for families who may be struggling to make ends meet to signup for free backpacks and school supplies for their young students.

Anna Simpson Houston, director of Families First Family Resource Centers for Danville Schools said the block party is important because it brings the entire community together to “see that we all care about each other.”

During the block party, she will be stationed at a table where parents and guardians can sign up for free backpacks filled with school supplies. Representatives from The Beacon will also be available to help middle- and high-school students get what they need.

Houston said the backpack program depends on donations to fill between 175 and 200 backpacks with pencils, crayons, scissors, notebooks paper and folders. This summer when Danville teacher Amy Butler unexpectedly died, her family collected backpacks filled with school supplies to be donated for students in need, Houston said.

Also on hand for families to sign up for school supply assistance will be representatives from Junction City Elementary School and Burgin Independent Schools.

Houston said not every family can afford to go on vacation or send their children to camps or do other things together as a family. So this block party is a way for them to enjoy the fun-filled day, free of charge. She said it’s also open to anyone, not just Danville or Boyle County residents.

She’s even seen older adults come and set up lawn chairs just to watch the festivities.

She said she’s always tired when they clean up after the block party, but “it’s so, so worth it.”

Ford said free lunches will be provided to children from 12 to 2 p.m. and food trucks will be there all day selling their specialties for adults to enjoy. Another free food event is from 4 to 5 p.m., when Vaughn Little will be cooking and doling out pulled pork and chicken, until his supplies are depleted, Ford said.

A water truck will also be on hand giving out free drinks of cool water to thirsty party-goers.

Ford said other free activities include 15 to 20 bouncy houses, bumper cars, horseback rides and a real helicopter for children to see and get inside.

There will also be tournaments for kickball, basketball and cornhole.

Throughout the day and evening, prizes will be given away every hour. And 75 pairs of new shoes will be given out by clients of the Shepherd’s House. Entertainment will include singing, dance teams, a step team, speeches and ministry, Ford said.

One thing the block party could use is more volunteers, Ford said. There will be a volunteer signup table the day of the block party, located next to the DJ on stage in the middle of the football field.

He’s expecting between 3,500 and 5,000 people to attend this year, especially since there were about 3,000 in attendance last year. Ford said it it takes a lot of money to put on the block party. Sponsors include Campbellsville University, the City of Harrodsburg and the Hope Network.

“It’s not about the money,” Ford said. “It’s about doing something without expecting something back.”