KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOTV) The past year has been a tough one for Kalamazoo. That made the Maranda Park Party on July 7 even more important and special to the community, and to my heart.
Thousands of people poured in to Upjohn Park in Kalamazoo as the third Maranda Park Party commenced. Being an intern, I was still somewhat new to the whole Park Party scene. Seconds after arriving in Kalamazoo, I knew this day was going to be special. There were already kids there waiting in the park, hours before the party was going to start, just laughing and watching with big eyes as we set up for the celebration of the summer.
The sun was shining and the temperatures were rising, but that didn’t stop any of us. Smiles were on every face, from interns to crew members, and little did the people of Kalamazoo know that we were just as excited as they were. When the music began to play as we continued setting up, I noticed myself starting to dance right alongside all of the kids that began to gather into the park. There is a special kind of magic and hope that Park Parties bring to a community, and I felt so blessed to be a part of that.
Minutes before party kick-off at noon, we all took our places. I was assigned to hand out Cheeze Kurls and Ice Mountain water. It may not seem like a big deal, but it was. Being able to give the kids and families snacks and drinks on a hot day, in a community that needs it, is so special to me. To see the kids’ faces light up as I snuck them an extra bag of chips, or to see the parents smile as their kids got excited over a snack, is absolutely priceless.
The little things in life are really what matter most. Kids ran around with their free backpacks, snacks, wristbands, fans, you name it. Maranda Park Parties bring a whole new meaning to the word “community.” You see kids making friends with total strangers. You see everyone interacting in a positive way. With the music blaring and the sound of laughter in the air, there’s not a way you can really have a bad time.
Kalamazoo voted to have a Zip Line at their Park Party, which a lot of the party-goers had a blast with as well. Kids were helping each other with the harnesses and cheering their friends and family on at the sideline. When talking to many of the people in line, you could see the pure excitement in their faces, especially when comments were made like, “I’ve never done anything like this before!” That’s what a Maranda Park Party is all about—bringing opportunities and good times to people who might not have had that chance before.
With so much negativity nowadays, it really is crucial to have days like this in a community for good times and family memories. I captured a moment between a Kalamazoo Public Safety officer and a little boy who was lost. The officer placed him on top of his shoulders and walked through the entire party with the boy. He told him jokes to make him laugh and smile and continue to the positive atmosphere a Maranda Park Party brings.
At the end of the Park Party, all I felt was happiness. You see all of the thousands of lives you positively affected that day, and all you can do is smile. Being an intern at this amazing station is nothing short of a blessing. There are no words you can put to seeing thousands of families, kids, and friends sharing a laugh or smile at an event that brings a community together. As we even exited the park after cleaning up, the amount of people that came up to me to personally thank me for helping out at this event left me speechless. Knowing you have that much of an impact on a community makes you feel so much hope. People were truly thankful for everything.
I’m so proud to say that I’m a part of the team that puts on such an incredible opportunity for communities all around West Michigan. Being an intern at WOOD TV8 is something for which I will be forever grateful.