The Rego Park/Forest Hills Lions Club helped host the long-running, community-building festival and barbecue for the families of Forestdale Inc., an agency in Forest Hills that provides foster care and family services for those in need.
Children played games like tug of war, basketball and threw Frisbees and water balloons as their parents, foster parents and caregivers cooled off under the canopy of trees in Forestdale’s courtyard on Saturday afternoon.
For the last 15 years, Sher Sparano, Rego Park/Forest Hills Lions Club executive vice president, has played a key role in fundraising for the long running event.
“I start six months ahead to get together the giveaway prizes, the donations and a whole list of everything that has to happen,” Sparano explained.
The club raised $5,000 for this year's event to pay for catering, prizes and games. At the end of the day, Sherano says there is nothing she would rather do with her time than put smiles on children’s faces.
“They love it,” she said. “We are involved in this because Forestdale is a tremendously worthy, well-run and caring organization.”
The Lions Club also works with the children’s service agencies elsewhere in the borough, including the Child Center of Queens and the School for Language and Communication.
Rosemarie Ewing-James, associate executive director for Forestdale, said these types of events are crucial in bringing families back together and facilitating in an all-around support system.
“Our hope is that whichever family we are involved with, when we leave or step out, that they are better off than when we stepped into their lives,” Ewing-James said.
Forestdale provides educational support for adolescents, programs to teach fathers how to be better parents, back-to-school initiatives and an array of other programs in addition to its foster care services.
With nearly 450 children in the foster care program and servicing over 1,000 families from Astoria to Far Rockaway, the center aims to help families become independent.
On Saturday, Ewing-James and her team were out helping hydrate the children and making sure everyone had a fun and safe weekend.
“It’s fun times for the family,” she said, looking out at the families and their children sitting around at the barbecue on the Forestdale lawn. “It may not be something they experience often, but we try.”