The Herald Bulletin

August 10, 2013

Annual back-to-school picnic sees drop in attendance

By Jack Molitor
The Herald Bulletin

---- — ANDERSON — Volunteers and sponsors wrapped up another successful parade and picnic geared toward getting needy children essential school supplies on Saturday.

But most noted the operation was significantly smaller than it's been in years past.

Still, about 300 students and parents showed up at the 23rd Annual Ollie H. Dixon Back-to-School Parade and Picnic at Jackson Park. The parade, which started at the former Shadeland Elementary School on West 14th Street, featured police cars, a fire truck and a group of children who marched with Dixon, the longtime city councilman, to the park for free hot dogs and hamburgers.

Tamie Dixon-Tatum, Dixon's daughter and the event's organizer, said the event was a success despite the smaller turnout, and she credited the assistance of several big-name sponsors, including Walgreens, Frontier Communication, City of Anderson, Hoosier Park Casino and Nestle.

"It feels good to have their support, and that's the way communities should function," Dixon-Tatum said. "Companies should want to reach out and help the less fortunate, and we really appreciate what they've done this year."

Dixon himself, who said he started the giveaway to get kids excited about learning, said this year's iteration is perhaps more important than previous years because of the dire state of the economy.

"You look around and unemployment is high and people are struggling. Here especially," the councilman said. "A lot of kids are in need, and we want to help them out."

Children in attendance were supplied with basics like pens, pencils and paper. But binders, highlighters and many other supplies and donated items were also available, free of charge, to whomever needed them.

Several public officials were also in attendance, like Anderson Fire Chief Phil Rogers, Police Chief Larry Crenshaw and outgoing Anderson Community School Superintendent Dr. Felix Chow, who will be leaving for Ann Arbor, Mich., at the end of the month. He said the small attendance could be attributed to previous giveaways earlier in the summer or the earlier first day for many local schools.

"I think anything like this where you can help the poor get what they need, that's a good thing," Chow said.

Like Jack Molitor on Facebook and follow him @aggiejack4 on Twitter, or call 640-4883.