Over 500 kids and caretakers came together for the event, which featured bouncy houses, face painting, balloon animals and raffle prizes.
Each child also received a free backpack filled with school supplies, compliments of Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, UNO Chicago Grill and the Minuteman Press.
Patricia Heaven brought her children Andrew, Faith and soon-to-be daughter Niasia.
“I’ve always been coming here, I have all my kids here and these are the people who have made my life fun and happy,” Heaven said. “I try to come to everything because it’s kid-friendly.”
Heaven signed up as a pre-adoptive parent through Forestdale because she always wanted her own family.
“They support you from foster parent through the adoption, and they help you with the attorneys and all that stuff,” she explained. “Once you’re an adoptive parent, they help point you in the right direction.”
Anstiss Agnew took over as the executive director of Forestdale seven years ago, and said events promoting education are one of her main focal points.
“Most of the kids come from families where education is not valued,” Agnew said. “This is our opportunity to make a fun event to show them that education is the key to freedom.”
Forestdale has served New York City youth since 1854 and helps nearly 1,000 families, mainly in Queens, each year.
“We focus on getting them in schools where they can be creative and doing the things they like,” she said.
Linn Tanzman, founder and executive director of Culture For One, works in partnership with Forestdale to bring children to museums, dance performances, musicals and Broadway shows throughout the year.
“Our mission is to inspire the kids in the arts and see a broader world,” Tanzman said. “Hopefully it will ignite interest, inspire them to work harder in school, have a dream and go achieve it.”
Tanzman began working with the foster care program three years ago and now brings up to 10 children per trip along with a social worker from the center.
“We want to motivate and inspire them to see a bigger world,” she said.
Councilman and Queens borough president candidate Peter Vallone, Jr. joined the festivities to remind parents the importance of back-to-school preparation.
“The most important reason I’m here is that I’m a parent just like they are,” Vallone said. “Our kids are the most important thing and parents understand that.”
Vallone also praised the center for their efforts to involve the whole family.
“One of the things that this group does the best is getting non-custodial dads involved also,” he said. “This is a wonderful event.”