“When children entered the Castle Heights Elementary cafeteria, they were smiling with delight as they saw so many of the Disney characters they love, as well as the happy faces of hometown heroes from the Lebanon Police Department, the Emergency Services Unit and CERT members, the Wilson County Sheriff’s Department and the Lebanon Fire Department,” said Beth Petty, director of Lebanon Special School District’s Family Resource Center.
“This is our second year to be involved,” said Lebanon police Cpl. P.J. Hardy. “It was great having the children meet their fictional and real hometown heroes. Watching the Youth Leadership Wilson students display leadership skills in helping to orchestrate this day was inspiring to everyone. They worked very hard to help set up, greet, clean up and make the day a great one for all involved.”
Youth Leadership Wilson students started the event to collect food and donations for the backpack programs in Lebanon and Wilson County schools.
“Our numbers were down a little this year, but we expected that. Due to illness in our school system, we had to reschedule the day from its original date of Saturday, Feb. 25. We also had a food giveaway taking place at exactly the same time as Hungry for Heroes,” Petty said. Last year, almost 250 students attended the event, and this year, we only had about 70 students and 60 adults.”
Not one person’s spirits were dampened by the lower turnout though, Petty said.
“It was such an amazing day, and many people commented that they were happy we had added more boy characters to this year’s event,” she said. “In fact, it seemed like out of the students who attended, there was an almost even number of boys and girls.”
Leadership Wilson board member Lisa Dickson helped with photos during Saturday’s event.
“The canned goods that are raised for LSSD and Wilson County Schools go directly into the homes of families who need them, including those in Youth Links, the program I work with,” Dickson said. “My favorite part of the day was the smiles – smiles from little princesses and mini Batmans. What a great day to be a part of.”
Petty said more than 400 cans of food were donated Saturday.
Petty said the event would be held again next year, and both school systems were thankful to Youth Leadership Wilson and the community for the canned food that came in at both days’ events.
The first Hungry for Heroes on Feb. 25 at West Wilson Elementary School in Mt. Juliet attracted a crowd of about 200 people.
“It was really good,” said Leadership Wilson director Dorie Mitchell, who said the event raised a truckload of canned food for the backpack program. “I was tickled to death.”
Youth Leadership Wilson members were dressed as movie characters and heroes such as Buzz Lightyear, Aladdin, Woody, Elsa and more. Children had the opportunity to meet their favorite characters and learn what makes them unique heroes.
“They were just amazing. It was so much fun. It’s really just a fun event,” Mitchell said.
Admission to both events was one canned food item per person.
Mitchell said food received at the West Wilson Elementary School event went to the Wilson County Schools’ backpack program.
About 1,000 cans of food were donated last year, which was the first year Youth Leadership Wilson held the event, according to Mitchell.
Democrat reporter Xavier Smith contributed to this report.
MORE.NOW. GALLERY: Hungry for Heroes collects for Lebanon Special School District.