Picnic in the Park wins state foundation award

  • Weatherford’s eagle mascot welcomes a student during Picnic in the Park, a summer outreach program to provide sack lunches to students and families in need. File photo

Picnic in the Park, a community outreach program sponsored by the Weatherford Public Schools Foundation to help feed students during the COVID-19 pandemic, has been selected for a 2020 Outstanding Program Award from the Oklahoma School Foundations Network, a program of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence.

Teachers often are on the front lines in recognizing the terrible effect of hunger in the lives of many of their students. With the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and a severe downturn in the oil and gas industry impacting finances of many families, the Weatherford Public Schools Foundation recognized more students than ever are impacted by hunger issues. With no school feeding program available over the summer months, the foundation stepped in to create and implement its Picnic in the Park program.

Each weekday, the foundation partnered with the Weatherford Daily News, Ben E. Keith Food Co., and generous community sponsors to provide sack lunches in the park to children and families in a fun, casual and safe way.

Volunteers were able to serve and stay socially distant, while still checking on students and providing smiles and encouraging words. Each Friday an ice cream truck was on hand to serve free ice cream to the kids.

“As kids rode by on their bicycles each day to pick up lunch, the smiles, high-fives and looks on the faces of all involved let volunteers know how deeply appreciated these lunches were,” WDN Publisher Phillip Reid said. “Surprisingly, some of the biggest winners were the volunteers themselves, who had the opportunity to take their minds off the stress and sadness of COVID-19 and re-focus on helping others.”

The event also gave students and teachers the opportunity to reconnect and even kicked off with a “Teacher Parade” where teachers lined the streets of the Towne Center while families drove by honking and displaying signs to show their support for educators.

Picnic in the Park provided more than 3,800 lunches thanks to donations totaling $8,250. Some 426 volunteers helped hand out lunches, and more than 900 ice cream bars were given out during the summer.