MURFREESBORO — Sunny smiles swept the clouds away Thursday, giving some of MTSU’s favorite little people and their big friends a great afternoon for a fall festival.
Families, friends, teachers, neighbors and community supporters turned out Thursday to spend the afternoon with the kids of Project Help, Rutherford County’s only community- and center-based program serving very young children, including those with special needs.
The festival, which organizers had worried might be dampened by the morning’s chilly rains, instead saw sunshine emerge just in time for the child-sized games and booths spread across the center’s North Baird Lane parking lot.
Several members of the Blue Raider football team and coaches took a break from practice to carve jack-o’-lanterns and watch the little ones bounce down the inflatable slides, go bowling for soft-drink bottles disguised as friendly ghosts, pick out pumpkins and snack on popcorn and chocolate milk from the MTSU Dairy.
Members of the university’s Delta Sigma Theta sorority stayed busy distributing icing, candy sprinkles and napkins at a decorate-your-own-cookie-and-cupcake booth, while Project Help staffers and volunteers guided children and parents around each event.
“We always have the best time here, and so do the children,” one parent said as her young daughter waited her turn at the face-painting booth. “It’s great for all of us to get together for a little bit and enjoy each other.”
Founded in 1983, Project Help is an inclusive preschool that serves children from 15 months to 3 years old in the MTSU and Middle Tennessee communities, helping children who have developmental delays learn and play with those who are developing typically. “Project Help Prep,” which helps 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds get ready for public school, also offers a half-day program four days a week.
The center’s staff, which includes more than 150 student volunteers each semester, works with parents through family-support programs that include workshops, one-to-one interactions and informal training seminars.
Renovations funded by Project Help’s annual “Saddle Up” events are almost complete at the main center on North Baird Lane. The center also serves children at its facility a few blocks away on Fairview Avenue.
For more details about Project Help and its services, visit http://www.mtsu.edu/ProjectHelp. Check out the link to its Facebook page, too, for some great photos.