Preview Party kicks off Touch a Truck Festival

VERO BEACH — The Touch a Truck Family Festival, scheduled for March 27 at the Indian River County Fairgrounds, kicked off with an invitational Preview Party for sponsors and supporters of Childcare Resources. 

The event took place inside the Indian River Shores Community Center and in a large tent set up behind the building that was decorated with red and white balloons, bright red and white checked napkins and colorful truck centerpieces. The Heritage Blue Grass Band played out on the back porch so that guests could enjoy their rustic down-home sounds from either spot.

During the cocktail hour, I chatted for a while with Nicole Williams, who volunteered to help at last year’s festival and this year is chairing the main event.  “We’ve added a train this year and we’re hoping for more than 50 trucks.  We’ve also got bounce houses, a petting zoo, hayrides, face painters and lots of other activities,” said Williams. “We’ve got everything – fire trucks, front-end loaders, semis; you name it.  The kids crawl all over them, open all the doors and climb inside, honk the horns; they love it.  The girls like it just as much as the boys and a lot of the adults really enjoy it too.  I was amazed at the big rigs; it’s like an apartment back there with a bed, bathroom, TV – everything.”

Childcare Resources board member Wanda Lincoln added, “It’s a great day and it’s inexpensive.  It’s only $20 for an entire family of six, and that includes everything except food.”  Families can bring their own picnic lunches or purchase from food vendors.

Childcare Resources fills the gap for those working parents who make too much to qualify for government subsidized childcare programs, by providing tuition assistance for pre-K children at one of the seven childcare centers Childcare Resources is partnered with.  The goal of the Preview Party was to raise enough funds to pay one year’s tuition for one child.

I spoke with Geny Canello, a Childcare Resources parent who was volunteering at the event, and whose four year-old son attends the Maitland Farms preschool. “Maitland is great,” said Canello.  It has lots of activities and he loves it.  It’s on a farm so he’s also learning about animals and plants.”  

Canello has two other school-aged children and said she also appreciates the emails she received from Childcare Resources about other programs and services throughout the community that they might be able to utilize.

Also volunteering at the event were parents Heidi and James Yates whose three year-old daughter Angel is enrolled at Maitland.  A very pregnant Heidi said they hope to send their new baby (due in 10 days) to the infant and toddler center being developed at Trinity Church.

After speaking with the Maitland Farms parents, I sought out Sandy Khale and asked how the school came about.  “I started it 32 years ago in my living room with 12 children; six years later we built a separate building.  I had a vision of an organic type school where children could learn by doing; touching and feeling.  I thought it would be a great start for them to become lifelong learners.” 

Today her school has 18 teachers and 110 students, from 22 months to 5 years old.  “Over the years it has evolved to have more working families.  Pre-school is so important to get children excited about learning.”

Just before dinner, Board President Erin Grall spoke briefly, thanking sponsors and encouraging contributions to enable children to start their critical early learning years with an education.  She also enthusiastically described some of the great raffle items, including a Richard Petty Driving Experience and an airboat adventure, and auction items including a private screening for 50 guests at the Majestic Theatre.

As guests lined up for the terrific pulled-pork barbeque dinner, I caught up with Trudie Rainone who was displaying a gorgeous ring that would be auctioned later in the evening.  Sterling silver with a huge canary crystal and diamonds, the ring had been donated by New York designer Judith Ripka.  “I told her about Childcare Resources and the event, and she said she would love to help.  The next day she sent me the ring,” Rainone said with delight.

Susan Chenault, who agreed to serve as campaign chair for the new center at Trinity, said they hope the center will become a prototype for the state.  “We’re about halfway to our goal of $275,000.  It’s so important; money invested in early education is an investment in the future.”

Admission to the March 27 Festival is $5 per person or $20 per family (up to six people) and children under three are free.  Event proceeds support Childcare Resources’ quality early education programs for working families.  {igallery 160}

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