FAIRMONT — A popular backpack program to aid local students will feature more of everything this year.
“This is going to be huge,” said Fairmont hip hop artist TK Blockstar, head of the annual backpack giveaway.
The Blockstar Entertainment Third Annual Backpack Giveway will be held Aug. 15 in Palatine Park in Fairmont, the largest venue to host the event to date.
In previous years, the event was held in at Fairmont Hills Apartments.
Blockstar approached the Marion County Commission and County Administrator Kris Cinalli about holding it at Palatine Park.
“I was blessed to be able to be connected with the county commission and Kris Cinalli,” she said. “It’s going to be a huge event this year because it’s Palatine, so there’s more space.”
Cinalli was also excited about the giveaway being held at the park.
“We’re definitely happy to host this event and provide a larger venue so that TK’s bookbag giveaway can be even bigger this summer than it has been over the past few years,” he said. “We’re also going to provide some other services and amenities for the kids to help get them excited about going back to school next summer. “We think it’s important to encourage our youth and show them how many people in our community care about them, their education and their futures.”
He said there is a need that exists in the community. “When you take a look around, it’s not hard to see that many kids have it harder than than we did 10, 20, 30 years ago and this is just a small step in a much larger effort to getting that trend turned around,” Cinalli said. “Some of our area’s youth may not always get the proper support so we’re going to step up and provide that support as a community for this one day.”
According to Cinalli, other community organizations have stepped forward to help with the event.
“We have a lot of people reaching out, donating their services, supplies and their time to make sure kids in Marion County have a day that focuses solely on them right before they go back to school next summer,” he said. “Hopefully, anybody who is able can get behind our efforts to help us show our youth how much we value them and how important their educations are.”
In addition to a bigger venue, Blockstar’s goal is to give away more backpacks to children at the event, which will begin around noon.
She said 300 backpacks were provided to children in past giveaways, but she hopes to get at least 1,000 backpacks, plus school supplies, into the hands of children at this year’s event. She has already started collecting backpacks, and has 200 so far.
Blockstar is enlisting the help of businesses and other sponsors in her efforts.
For example, she said Samantha Esposito with West Virginia Junior College in Morgantown and students at the college will join in the collection efforts. They plan to drop off donations every six weeks.
Blockstar said Ebo’s Restaurant on Adams Street in Fairmont will also serve as a drop-off site for donations.
Blockstar said the event has grown so large, it will actually have the feel of a festival.
She said there will be five food vendors, including Lynn Michael, owner of Bruh’s Backyard BBQ. Entertainment will include country music, Lil’ Jammaz Hip Hop Company from Morgantown, and others. A mixed martial arts group from the Fairmont School of Martial Arts will do a demonstration, courtesy of owners Lacey Fox and Larissa Kirk.
Fox said she was honored to be involved with the backpack giveaway event.
“I think she is doing is a fantastic thing. I’m very excited to be working with her on this, and I think it’s going to be very beneficial,” Fox said.
She said the students, which includes children as young as three years old up to adults, will do a variety of moves in their demonstration.
They will perform basic self-defense techniques, as well as demonstrations involving weapons, forms and sparring, she said.
A carnival is also on tap. Blockstar said it will feature a 45-foot obstacle course, four carnival games, a dunk tank and a Mickey Mouse Fun Park bounce house. Face painting will be available.
Blockstar is enthusiastic about the giveaway, which she believes will allow the event to surpass past efforts.
“This is the best one, the biggest one,” she said. “I’m so excited.”
Blockstar hopes the giveaway can be enjoyable for the whole community, even those not in need.
She chooses to provide backpacks to children because she said “education is key.”
“It’s the number one thing,” she said.
Blockstar sees a lot of need in the area, which is why she said she helps children. She said the giveaway also helps parents.
She wants to make a difference in Marion County by increasing positive opportunities for children.
Blockstar said she hopes to continue offering the giveaway at Palatine Park in future years as well.
To assist in her charitable efforts, Blockstar has started her own nonprofit organization, Enlightened Steps.
She used a portion of the monetary award she received with her 2019 Beacon Award to help start the nonprofit.
The awards, presented by the One Foundation and Generation West Virginia, “recognize, support, and connect young leaders between the ages of 18-40 who are working tirelessly with their communities to create lasting impact.”
Blockstar’s award states, “In spite of facing considerable obstacles in her own life, TK has become a tireless entrepreneur and advocate for her community. Whether spearheading a project to refurbish and reimagine a community center, organizing local concerts and championing the arts, or helping people register to vote, TK is infectiously positive and utterly unstoppable. She is a respected mentor and inspiration to many in her community, always using her energy, creativity, and spirit to ensure that people don’t give up on themselves.”
Blockstar said the award has gotten people to take her seriously and flooded her with opportunities.
In addition, her hip hop career continues to grow.
She said that she dropped a new single, “Froze,” which has 10,000 streams on Apple and Spotify.
In her first year as a registered artist on Spotify, she said there have been 300,000 streams of her music.