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John Simmons | photos by The Greeneville Sun/Jeni Donahue | Jul 27, 2018

Boy enjoys food at Greeneville, Tennessee, Kiwanis club's Kids' Day.

Greeneville is a town of just more than 15,000 people located in the county seat of Greene County, Tennessee. Kiwanian Jeni Webb Donahue describes Greeneville as a friendly, close-knit, family-oriented community. But four years ago, George Scott, now president-elect of the Greeneville Kiwanis club, felt that something was missing: a fun, free, daylong event for the town’s children. And so the club’s Kids Day was born.

In just four years, attendance at Kids Day has grown by nearly 250 percent, from a first-year crowd of 500 to this year’s conservative estimate of more than 1,200.

“For the first time ever,” says Donahue, the Kids Day Committee chair, “we used Facebook and other social media to promote the event, and we feel like that helped.”

Girl in stroller enjoys ice cream at the Greeneville Kiwanis club's Kids' Day. Pioneer Park, a stadium on the campus of Tusculum University, hosted the 2018 Kids Day. Families attending the June event were treated to free hot dogs, chips and bottled water – with the longest lines of the day reserved for complementary ice cream.

“It was so much fun to see all these happy kids with ice cream all over their faces,” says Donahue. “That was something that made us all smile.”

Once the young guests had fueled up, they enjoyed a variety of attractions, including face painting, balloon artists, live music, temporary-tattoo artists, bubble stands and inflatable bounce houses.

The Greene County Health Department hosted a one-mile walk around the baseball field (which is home to the town’s minor league baseball team, the Greeneville Reds) and a drawing to see which four of the 172 participating kids would take home a new bicycle. Other giveaways included more than 50 door prizes donated by the event’s 17 sponsors and 550 Kiwanis backpacks distributed by the club.

“Not only was the event completely free,” Donahue says, “but many kids left with gifts and door prizes to take home. Our hope is that when they see the door prize, whether it is a toy or game, that they think about the Kiwanis club and know they are important in our community and that it brings a smile to their face and joy to their hearts.”

Perhaps even more exciting than winning a gift or prize was a visit by Wings Air Rescue. After the helicopter landed at Pioneer Park, children got to meet the crew and climb aboard the craft. Greeneville’s firefighters and police officers were there, too.

“We wanted kids to develop a level of trust in knowing that Greeneville’s public servants will always be there for them whenever they need help. For us, that was just huge,” Donahue says. 

Throughout the day, Kiwanis club secretary and professional photographer, Jerry Hankins, was on hand to take pictures of the kids with mascots such as Scooby-Doo and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; the resulting images were printed free-of-charge for families to take home.

Hankins was touched when one mother told him, “You know, this is the only picture I have of my children.”  

The club’s focus in putting all of this together, Donahue says, was simple:  What can we do for our kids to make this the best event ever?

 “We wanted to give 100 percent effort,” she says, “because for the Kiwanis Club of Greeneville – like Kiwanis clubs everywhere – it’s all about our kids.”

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