Megan Wallgren | Lehi Free Press
The chance to connect through service brought hundreds of families to Thanksgiving Point Monday to participate in first lady Abby Cox’s Show Up for Summer Service family fair.
The carnival atmosphere included music, food, bounce houses, face painting, and games, along with the opportunity to learn more about service organizations giving back to Utah families. The second annual event brought together 45 different community organizations with volunteers who may be seeking service opportunities.
The event was part of First Lady Abby Cox’s Show Up initiative. Addressing the crowd, Cox said, “We’re seeing the opportunity through this event to not only connect you with each other but also to connect you with people who are willing to serve.”
Participants received a raffle card at the gate. When they had talked with six different service organizations, the card was entered into a raffle for prizes. Hopefully, among the booths, parents and children could find opportunities to serve that fit their interests and availability.
“The idea is asking Utah families to spend one day of summer vacation giving back,” said Kirsten Rappeley, Director of the First Lady’s Office. Cox talked about the benefits of service in bringing people together. “We are in a place in our society where disagreement becomes vicious and healthy conflict is nowhere to be seen, and that’s what we want to bring back,” Cox said. “We believe that service and connecting through service is the best antidote for what ails us.”
Cox also touted the benefit of service for mental health. “I don’t have to tell any of you about the struggle our youth, teens, and many adults have with mental health. Service and volunteerism have been connected scientifically to improving mental health, so what you’re doing here today is changing the world,” she said.
As they travel throughout the state with the initiative, Rappeley said they see a lot of groups looking for service and many organizations which need volunteers. “They don’t know how to find each other, so we wanted to throw a big party that does just that.”
Lauren Hemelstrand brought her family to the fair, hoping to find service opportunities. “I want them to look outside themselves and be aware of the needs of other children,” she said. Hemelstrand was most interested in organizations she felt would give her children a chance to build relationships with others.
Brittany Webster also brought her children, looking for ways to reach out. “We’ve done a few service projects and want to find more, and this is great because it’s geared toward all ages,” she said.
Community organizations were excited to share their messages and make connections with volunteers. Emily Johnson, with Tiny Tim’s Foundation for Kids, said they’re looking for people of all ages to visit the shop to serve. “From 3 to 103, we have something for them to do. We always have a need,” Johnson said. Her grandfather started the foundation that turns scrap wood into toys for the less fortunate and has served over 500 million children worldwide.
Participants packed 1,000 bags of food for children facing food scarcity as part of the fair. Ronda Aramaki with the Five.12 Foundation said that for kids whose primary source of meals is school breakfasts and lunches, the weekends and summer break are a real hardship. Aramaki said the national organization packs about 2,700 bags a week for kids.
A list of organizations looking for volunteers may be found at showuputah.org/service.