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‘Bash’ set to hand out bags packed with hope

BackToSchoolBashIt lasts five hours.
And requires hosts of volunteers.
It involves more than 1,000 students and tens of thousands of dollars.
Then there are the pencil boxes, scissors, pens, socks, Bibles, gift certificates and snow cones.
But, with all that, there’s still just one purpose: making a difference.
It’s the sixth annual Back-to-School Bash at Hampton’s Harmony Free Will Baptist Church, set for Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
This year’s Bash actually has a new name: the L.D. and Susie Berry Back-to-School Bash, named in celebration of the lives of Pastor L.D. Berry and wife, Susie, who were killed in a car crash in March 2011.
But while the name is different, the spiritual and financial lift, the message, the food and the fun remain unchanged.
“This event is to lift up our Lord Jesus Christ and let each family in attendance know how much He loves each of them,” said Brandon Young, pastor at Harmony. “We want as many children as possible to attend and have a fun-filled day receiving what they need for school while enjoying all the food, activities and entertainment.”
While the entertainment, food and fun are key components of the Bash, at its heart are two things: a message of hope and forgiveness and more than 1,000 backpacks filled with back-to-school essentials.
And like everything else at the Bash, both are free.
Those backpacks are filled with school-related items like a binder, pencil box, notebook paper, glue sticks, notebooks, crayons, colored pencils, scissors, rulers, erasers, markers, protractors, pens and pencils.
But children will receive more than school supplies: clothing, such as socks, underwear and T-shirts; free food gift certificates to area restaurants, a new Bible, and free food — hot dogs, cotton candy, popcorn, Little Debbie cakes and snow cones.
In order to receive the backpacks, children and their parents will watch a short skit by the Harmony Free Will Baptist Church Youth and River’s Edge Fellowship Youth as well as a Christian-based puppet show. An invitation will then be given for attendees to accept Christ, when counselors will be available. The skits and puppet show are performed every 30 minutes and the sanctuary can hold between 250 and 300 people at a time.
After parents and children leave the sanctuary, the backpacks are distributed to school-age students, kindergarten through 12th grade. The children also have the opportunity to play on the fairgrounds as long as they want to. In each backpack, youngsters will also find a list of the area churches that participated in the event so each family can find a church in their local area and attend.
Children must be accompanied by an adult chaperone.
“The event makes a huge impact on the children of Carter County and beyond,” Young said, “because it first lets them know that the Savior Jesus Christ loves them enough to provide them with all the supplies they need for school. Due to our struggling economy and unemployment rate, it also assists the parents in providing what their children need for the upcoming school year.”
Noting the event’s spiritual impact as well, he said many children and parents accepted Christ during last year’s events. “This event helps families financially and spiritually.”
Of course, a “Bash” wouldn’t really be a “Bash” without a heaping helping of fun.
Along with the food, the fun this year includes horseback riding, a petting zoo, inflatable rides, clowns, puppet shows, water wars, a dunking booth, Christian dramas, face-painting, Christian wrestling, live singing and much more.
While the event formally begins at 10 a.m., visitors can arrive at 9 a.m., when pre-event entertainment and singing will be provided before the gates open.
The Bash is sponsored by individuals, area businesses, organizations and local churches. More than $25,000 is raised to ensure that each student has a fun-filled day and receives the school supplies they’ll need for the school year.
Young said the Bash “shows what God can do when churches come together, united in Jesus, and lay aside their denomination and differences to be one body – The Church of Jesus Christ.”
On Saturday, a ceremony will mark a change for the Bash — and serve to honor Pastor L.D. and Susie Berry by adding their name to the title.
The Rev. Elgin “L.D.” Berry served as pastor at eight different churches, including Sunrise Freewill Baptist, where he served from 2008 until his death.
Shuttles will be provided Saturday, and attendees are asked to park in the Hampton High School parking lot to be transported by van and bus to the event. Handicap parking will be available on-site at Harmony, but a handicap parking sign must be displayed in order to park.
Harmony Free Will Baptist Church is at 3405 Gap Creek Road, off U.S. Highway 19E, in Hampton. To contribute, volunteer for the day of the event or for more directions or information, call Young at 725-2562 or 828-766-5614, or e-mail brandonyoung@centurylink.net.