School hosts family fun night
By SARAH LUNDGREN The Brunswick News
As Jenn Steff watched children and their families pour onto the football field through the open gates at Risley Middle School, she couldn't help but smile.
It was Friday night, but guests weren't coming to watch an athletic event. They were coming instead to be a part of a family fun night for neighborhoods in southern Glynn County, including Cinder Hill and Somersby Point on Southport Parkway.
As president of the school's Parent-Teacher Association, Steff was thrilled to see so many parents and young students coming to check out the bounce houses, popcorn, hot dogs and drinks, and especially the massive, blow-up movie screen.
Steff says the goal was to help bring entire families out to the school in an effort to get more people involved in everyday activities.
"What is a school? It's really nothing but a family. If you don't have family support, it all rests on the teachers," Steff said. "Lori (Joiner, Risley Middle principal) is all about making the school a real part of the community, too."
Following a board member suggestion, Steff and the other PTA board members - Kim Diestel, Nancy Hooker, Shaunacee Wilds, Amanda Murray and Carly Oxenrider - put together the family fun night with help from Joiner.
Undeterred by the sand gnats, children were hopping around inside the two bounce houses and snacking on popcorn donated by Spacewalk of Brunswick. Others played pick-up games of soccer, football and baseball.
While sons and daughters made their own fun around the field, parents had the opportunity to chat with each other and get to know neighbors. The event offered a safe environment for children of all ages so that they, as well as the adults, could have a good time.
The Risley Middle PTA also arranged for Amazing Amusements to bring a blow-up movie screen to play "Despicable Me 2" for the parents and children who'd set up chairs as the sun set.
"This was a huge undertaking by all the members who have done a wonderful job," Steff said of the evening.
She estimated around 170 people attended, making it quite a success for an inaugural event.
Principal Joiner said they are hoping to make it a more regular occurrence, especially when remembering the positive feedback they received from a Halloween event held at the school this past October.
"Because there are so many neighborhoods around here, parents were coming and parking at the school to take their kids trick-or-treating, so this year, we decided to set up tables with free water and glow-sticks for everyone to carry," she said. "The PTA even put together a scary backdrop for families to get their photos in front of."
Risley Middle and Satilla Marsh Elementary are surrounded by family-filled neighborhoods, making it crucial for both schools to be involved in the community, Joiner says. Both schools work together to integrate themselves into the lives of those who live in the area.
"We're part of the neighborhood too and this is just one of the ways we can give back to a community that helps us do what we do," Joiner said of Friday's family fun night.
* Reporter Sarah Lundgren writes about education and other local topics. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 322.