F.O.S.T.E.R. and Nehemiah are getting set to present fully-stocked backpacks to area kids in a day full of fun at Penn Park as they host their 14th annual Back 2 Skool Bash on Saturday, Aug. 13, noon-4 p.m.
“We will have all types of vendors and games at the event. We’ll have an obstacle course, cookie-making station, art station, and face-painting, double-dutch workshops, music, and fun,” says Jackie Hunt, founder of F.O.S.T.E.R. Every year, Hunt organizes the Back to Skool Bash, in partnership with Nehemiah, in late August. “We’ll have the Progress Center van out there and One City Schools will be there. It’s just going to be a really fun day for families to come out and enjoy some activities together.”
The Back to Skool Bash is an event that the community really looks forward to because students not only receive free school supplies and enjoy free food and games but they also get salon services, new clothes, shoes, and family support services as needed.
“At the event, we’ll hear from a few educators who will encourage the students as they get ready and prepared to go back to school,” Hunt says. “We’re gonna have backpacks, we’re gonna have outfits. We’re gonna have some shoes. We will have chair massages done by Mocha Massage.”
The vision of F.O.S.T.E.R. (Families Overcoming Struggles To Encourage Restoration) of Dane County is to ensure stability and ability for strong, successful, and thriving Black families who are raising healthy and successful children, supporting their families who engage in their communities in meaningful ways.
Historically, the organization’s Back 2 Skool Bash would be a chance for young people to get their hair done by hair professionals in a hair salon.
“I used to love it when we had the back to school event at Vernee Nycole House of Beauty [on Madison’s south side] and the kids would get their hair done and their face painted and they would have their little backpacks. There was just so much excitement in the salon,” Hunt remembers. “I wish we could go back to the salon. I think that next year we’re going to try and do that. She has been a great partner with me in this event for the last 14 years.
“We would be all full up and have barbers and stylists cutting hair at every station … I remember one year we didn’t get them done until 10 o’clock!” Hunt adds. “They were sending us food because we refused to leave until every child was taken care of.”
This year, organizers will be presenting vouchers that families can use those to get their children’s hair styled by a professional as it gets closer to school.
“The event continues to grow and we continue to serve more and more kids,” Hunt says. “The need is even greater now with inflation and COVID. We just want to do our part to support families and make sure that our kids go back to school looking good and prepared and ready for a very successful school year.”
This year’s event will be special for Hunt because it will be done in partnership with her son, Julian Walters, who will be hosting his 2nd Annual Ju Ju’s Block Party and basketball tournament.
“We’re excited to bring the whole family together to create one event trying to serve this community that we all love,” Hunt says.
Ju Ju’s Block Party is now in year two and the organization has a mission to encourage kids to stay on a positive track through community engagement and activities.
“We have Black vendors there who are going to be showcasing their artwork and food trucks and all that is going to culminate with the streetball basketball tournament,” Walters tells Madison365. “All and all, it’s going to be a very positive event for the community where we can give back, but also have fun.
“We’re going to have 16 teams this year. We are going to have first round competition and then two teams will have a bye and we are going to do the Elam Ending.”
Unlike traditional basketball rules, in which the game is played with 4 timed quarters, with the Elam Ending format, teams end the game by playing to a target score.
Walters adds that Madison College and YMCA will be at Ju Ju’s Block Party and that YMCA Sports Director Jaden Lechelt will be providing informational handouts of sports programming, their financial assistance program, information on the Y’s Fall open house, and the YMCA’s September membership special.
“I’ve grown up giving back through my mom’s nonprofit for many years,” Walters says. “This event is powered through her nonprofit, but to collaborate with her and to make it a team effort, It’s beautiful.”
Walters has worked with his mom on many F.O.S.T.E.R. fundraising events including Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets, Dinner with Soul Santa, Back 2 Skool, and more.
“I’ve been there from its infancy as her son and as one of her children giving them back. So to partner with her for this event, it’s a blessing. That’s awesome.”
Hunt is looking for a nice weather day and a great turnout on Saturday.
“I’m really, really humbled and just grateful for the support that we receive as it relates to doing this event,” she says. “It’s going to be fun. We’re going to have a lot of prizes and a lot of giveaways. Just come on out and have a great time.”