During the past six years, Youth Services System's annual picnic for the community has yielded a total of 22,000 participants.
And Thursday, the organization was well on its way to adding another 5,000 to that number, according to YSS spokesman Mike Toothman.
Held at Wheeling Park, the Celebrate Youth event annually offers free food, along with activities such as bounce houses and face painting, at the ice rink shelter. The Wheeling Park Commission also donates wristbands to allow children and parents to swim and do other park activities free of charge.
Photo by Shelley Hanson
Tadem Hayes, 10, granddaughter of Linda Coleman of Wheeling, reacts Thursday to seeing lungs, both healthy and not, during the Youth Services System Celebrate Youth picnic.
There are also numerous organizations and businesses that set up tables to give away items or offer fun, educational activities.
"We have more than 60 exhibitors," Toothman said. "Our biggest sponsor is Wheeling Park. Last year we gave out 2,300 wristbands. We're extremely grateful to them. They do make this possible."
While for many the free items are the highlight of the day, Toothman said it is important for people to get to know the many organizations and services provided in the community.
"It's a good day for folks - it's a relaxed day," he said.
Toothman said officials had no idea if anyone would show up during the first Celebrate Youth seven years ago, but about 500 did.
"We wanted to see if anyone would come. ... Everyone had a good time. Every year we try to make it better for everyone," he said.