SIDNEY — Raising kids can be a challenge under the best of circumstances.
When money’s short, help is unavailable or the child has special needs, things become even more challenging. In the Greenville area, there are many organizations anxious to offer a helping hand, but too often parents are unaware of their existence. To help remedy this situation, on Saturday the We Care for Kids Council held its annual Family Fun Day and Early Childhood Expo at Montcalm Community College’s Activities Building in Sidney.
The event featured a host of activities for parents and children of varying ages. Though planned — as the name implies — as a fun time for all, the day also had a more consequential purpose: getting the word out to area parents that help is available for them and their children.
According to council member Sandy Gardner, the event brings in several hundred visitors each year and helps educate parents and other caregivers as to the resources available to them.
“We have nine different organizations this year who have set up tables to display their information,” Gardner said. “There’s all sorts of stuff for kids and parents to pick up to see what services are out there. This is a great project. There is a lot of fun stuff going on.”
Some of those services include things such as in-home evaluations of infants and toddlers, designed to help determine if a need exists for special education, early Head Start classes, or other special services.
“We try to coordinate and refer that child to the appropriate agency,” Gardner said. “Speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy; they’re all provided through Early On and the local school districts.”
This year’s Family Fun Day also features a raffle of 24 children’s car seats purchased by the We Care for Kids Council specifically for this event. Tickets for the raffle were free and included a professional fitting by a car seat specialist.
Penny Dora, who has served on the council since 2002, said the event has been held annually for about 20 years and has consistently been one of the organization’s most popular offerings.
“It’s targeted for families in Montcalm County who can come together and do activities at little or no cost,” Dora said. “It gives them a chance to strengthen that family bond.”
In addition to the informational displays, the event also offered several activities such as arts and crafts, use of the pool and gymnasium and several Earth Day activities. Also, an ambulance was on hand to give kids an up close and personal look at the vehicle and its many life-saving “gadgets.”
“There’s a group of students from the Career Center who have developed some fun activities around Earth Day,” Dora said. “They’re doing tissue paper flower pots and a variety of activities for different age groups.”
Some of the groups taking part in the event were Early On Michigan, the Montcalm Area Intermediate School District, Montcalm Great Start, EightCAP and Great Start Collaborative.