DYERSVILLE, Iowa — Table after table filled the Oak Gardens Pavilion at Dyersville Commercial Club Park on Wednesday night.
Hundreds of children and their parents moved between them, learning about area resources during the fifth annual Kickoff to School event.
The tables’ contents included backpacks, folders, paper, binders, coloring supplies, books, stuffed animals and more. All of the items were free of cost.
Sealey Goodwin, 5, and his brother Alexander Barnett, 5, of Dyersville, will attend school for the first time in just about two weeks. They were two of those who happily put their supplies into their new backpacks.
“I want all mine to be green,” Sealey said, explaining that green is his favorite color.
“Me too,” Alexander chimed in with a smile as each picked out a stuffed toy.
Their mother, Jamie Ingle, said she was grateful for the event, as it helped her boys get excited to go back to school.
“It’s really nice,” she said. “And trying to get everything ready, this definitely helps.”
The event was hosted by the Dyersville Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.
“We wanted to do an event that brings the resources right there to people,” said Jessica Pape, the campaign’s community coordinator. “We saw there was a great need for it. It’s a great community builder as well.”
Food was provided and attendees also had the opportunity to visit with local emergency responders and check out their vehicles and equipment.
“We’re making sure parents might know where resources are and have a face to go with that,” Pape said. “I think my No. 1 objective is that they feel they have a community supporting them.”
Joshua Woodland, an optometrist with Woodland Eye Clinic in Dyersville, said he has come every year to provide free vision screenings for kids.
He said children going into kindergarten and third grade are required by the state to have screenings. However, during the event, any child could have his or her eyes checked “to make sure no one falls through the cracks,” he said.
“Vision is so important with learning,” he said. “Especially with kids, they don’t know any better. If their (vision is) blurry, that’s the way their whole world’s been their whole life.”
Getting back-to-school ready can be especially challenging for families with more than one child.
Stephanie Deutmeyer, of Dyersville, attended the event with three of her four children — Brylee Hodges, 14, Danielle Runde, 12, and Rachyl Runde, 9. She said she was grateful to be able to check much-needed items off their list of school items.
“When you have multiple children, it helps having someone to help you with a lot of the supplies,” she said. “The supplies and making all the different connections with the resources are great.”