The director of community program services for Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens recalled that they received a donation of backpacks and wanted to distribute them in the community.
“We thought, how can we give these out to the community, but also connect them with resources?” Hampson said.
The first annual event drew about 400 people.
Ten years later, Kids Fun Day has evolved into a street fair with more than 50 community organizations, city agencies and vendors. Each group not only provides fun activities for kids, but offers information and services for their parents and families.
Last Friday, more than 1,200 people filled the streets of Newtown Avenue in Astoria. All students received free book bags filled with school supplies to prepare them for the upcoming school year.
They enjoyed face-painting, bean bag toss and dozens of other fun activities.
Perhaps more importantly, families had access to a “one-stop shop” for critical resources.
“People might not necessarily always ask for help,” Hampson said. “But when it’s out on the street, and there’s an activity their kids are engaged in, they’ll look at the brochures and talk to the person one-on-one.
“They’re getting that information, maybe not for them,” she added, “but maybe for a parent or sibling or cousin, someone who might need that help too.”
Hampson said the event has grown so much that vendors and community groups already have it on their annual calendars. They share the event through word of mouth, attracting more families every year.
In the coming years, Kids Fun Day may even need to expand to accommodate all of the new kids and organizations participating.
“Maybe we’ll need two blocks,” Hampson said.
Joan Atkins and Indra Ramdyal, both employees at a local Home Depot, were part of the team that volunteered at the event. For the Home Depot booth, kids were given a wooden building set and tasked with creating their own structures.
“Kids like to build,” Atkins said. “Not only are they building, they’re painting and learning to use a hammer and follow instructions they get with the kits.”
“Hands-on is always better because the kids are so much into electronics,” Ramdyal added. “Teaching them how to be creative and building stuff, it’s a good start.”
This summer was the third year the home improvement chain participated in Kids Fun Day. Both Atkins and Ramdyal have attended all three years, and spoke about the importance of providing services for the community.
“It’s a good for people in this community to know what is available to them for their needs,” Ramdyal said.