Ardmore Literacy Leadership held its sixth annual Literacy Day at Central Park on Saturday, with hundreds of families braving the heat for back-to-school supplies.
Temperatures reached triple digits throughout southern Oklahoma, but no matter what the heat index said, the community came out to support its students.
Along with the school supplies purchased in bulk from Staples, local healthcare providers showed up as well.
Students were given free eye exams from Ardmore Premier Eyecare, a free dental exam from the Washington Dental Clinic, a free hearing test and free haircuts from the Paul Mitchell School.
Event organizer and Ardmore Public Library Literacy Coordinator Elizabeth Gaylor once saw herself in the shoes of the students in need of school supplies, and came up with Literacy Day in the Park six years ago.
“It was just something we felt, in our coalition, that we felt we had a bunch of our students that were needing help,” Gaylor said. “So we were like, ‘Why don’t we just do an event?’”
More than 800 participants came to Central Park in downtown Ardmore to receive supplies. Students received everything from a new backpack to markers and glue sticks.
The number of recipients was down from 1,130 from last year’s event, and the leftover supplies will be donated to the HFV Wilson Community Center back-to-school event on Monday.
With the cost of school supplies going up, parents with multiple children can find it difficult to keep up with the costs.
For parents like Tracy McGahan of Lone Grove, whose children Gracie McGahan (age nine) and Jackson McGahan (age six) will be attending Lone Grove this fall, having events like Literacy Day in the Park is a blessing.
“I think it is awesome, everyone pulls together as one,” McGahan said. “It helps a lot, it is really nice. If you can’t get something then you might get it here.”
After receiving their school supplies, students were offered a free medical check-up as well as a free haircut from students of the Paul Mitchell school.
Paul Mitchell instructor Jessica Wilkinson, of Davis, saw having her students practice on kids in the area as a win, not only for her students but for the kids as well.
“It is absolutely an incredible opportunity for them to learn,” Wilkinson said. “The mass number of heads coming in here alone is incredible. It is really big for Paul Mitchell, not just us, to give back.
Being able to give kids the confidence boost a new hairdo can bring heading into the new school year makes it worthwhile for Wilkinson and her students.
As this year’s Literacy Day comes to an end, Gaylor believes the event has potential to grow. Her hopes for the future is to somehow incorporate a clothes giveaway for students in need.
For Gaylor, helping the kids in the area set up for success is the ultimate goal.
“I was one of those kids that my mom had to take me to go get free school supplies,” Gaylor said. “So to be able to do an event that gives back to the community like that, and help make it easier for that mom or parent that is needing to get that kid back to school is kind of heartwarming.”