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McKENZIE (June 27) — A special event brought the community together Saturday at Mulberry Park and showed the unity and love that McKenzie has despite tumultuous times in the nation and the …
McKENZIE (June 27) — A special event brought the community together Saturday at Mulberry Park and showed the unity and love that McKenzie has despite tumultuous times in the nation and the world.
Hundreds attended the “Celebration of Our Youth” organized by Raven Cunningham-Tharpe and enjoyed free food, games, bounce houses, music, crafts and face- and nail-painting. All the children were given candy, books, t-shirts and more.
In an interview with The Banner, Cunningham-Tharpe said, “I wanted to better our community and help us get away from racial tensions, so I wanted to have a celebration for the kids.” She credited the youth with being resilient to division. The theme she chose for the event was “Choose Love.”
It was truly a community effort making the event the huge success it was, and she expressed her appreciation. “I had the vision, but they helped it become a reality.”
She named many who donated or otherwise contributed to the celebration: Bennett Hardware, the VFW, Carroll County Lumber, local churches, Asera Care, Caris, Baptist Hospital, Volunteer Home Health, The Cutting Room, City Florist, Christian Family Medicine, Block City Pizza, Dairy Queen, Pepsi, Southern X-Ray, VP Racing, Sonic Drive-In, McKenzie High School and “the whole community.”
Among attendees were McKenzie Mayor Jill Holland and Carroll County Mayor Joseph Butler.
Mayor Holland told The Banner, “It was truly a uniting of our entire community. It really was living proof of what we are all about in McKenzie-coming together and being there for each other. Various groups that came together and donated the food, drinks, crafts and games were phenomenal, and all I’ve heard is how successful it was and how much fun everyone had. It really shows what can happen when the people in a community ‘Choose Love.’”
Mayor Butler told The Banner, “[My family and I] were thankful to be a part of Saturday’s Celebration for Our Youth. It was a beautiful show of unity and a blessing to so many kids, including two of ours. As the shirts displayed, we will always choose love, and we want the community we love to know where we stand with all that’s going on around us in the world. We want to extend a special thank you to the event organizers, local sponsors and countless volunteers. It was a very special day.”
The celebration was unfortunately forced to end early when a sudden, severe thunderstorm had everyone seeking shelter, but that didn’t dampen any spirits. Some of the crowd returned the next afternoon for more food and fellowship and a three-on-three basketball tournament. Also, a Service of Healing that was supposed to cap off Saturday’s event will be rescheduled at a later date.
Cunningham-Tharpe wants the “Celebration” to become an annual event. She hopes to organize a committee to plan for next year and wants the event to be “bigger and better.”