April 10, 2013 - After reading about the need for volunteers to take over Celebrate Oxford's Kids Town in the Oxford Leader, local resident Meg Buckley decided to take on the challenge.
Meg Buckley with her two sons Aaron (left) and Justin (right). Photo by Trevor Keiser. (click for larger version)
"You can't have family day without anything for the kids. If the DDA (Downtown Development Authority) wasn't going to run Kids Town, what were the kids supposed to do? My kids loved it last year," said Buckley. "I stayed home because I didn't feel good, but my husband took my kids down and it was free and they could bounce (in the bounce houses) and burn off steam and they weren't doing it in the house."
The biggest obstacle Buckley said, is time.
"It's in August," she said. "We have maybe three months to get all the funding together and figure out how to do everything."
In order to accomplish it all, Buckley said she is looking for volunteers to help do fund-raisers, help work the event and sponsors. She has also set up a bank account at Genisys Credit Union for donations and all fund-raising money to go into.
"I honestly don't think we'll be able to do it on the scale that the DDA did it last year, just because we don't have time, but we'd like to get things set up for the following year so it's bigger and better," she said. "It's going to be a huge learning curve."
Last year she said the DDA spent $7,000 on Kids Town and used a vendor out of Grand Rapids. Buckley is hoping to raise $4,000 and keep all vendors and sponsors local. She has plans to talk to Knight Tent and Party Rental for bounce houses as well as tables and chairs.
"They have amazing prices and (bonus) they're here in Oxford," she said. "I'd like to make sure that sponsors gets their name out there. If they sponsor a specific bounce house there will be sign in front saying 'This bounce house is sponsored by…'"
Buckley said she is currently putting together sponsor packets to hand out to local business with all the needed information.
As far as the Kids Town itself, she is looking to have a variety of games and arts and crafts along with the bounce houses. Other things she'd like to keep from previous Kids Town events would be a stage where the local dance studios and local karate studios can showcase what they offer. While Kids Town was free last year, two years ago the DDA charged $10. Buckley said she is thinking about a $5 charge with a bracelet that will give kids access to everything in Kids Town.
"Anything we make at Kids Town goes right back into the account for the following year's Kids Town," she said. "I'd like to hook up with a non-profit here in Oxford and donate a portion of the proceeds to them, just to put money back in (to the community) and make sure that Kids Town isn't just for kids to go play, but it's (also) for a good cause."
Even though this is the first kid -related event of this magnitude Buckley has taken on, it's not her first project. Buckley, who is a mother of two boys both under the age of five recently started a Facebook page called "Oxford Kids and Family."
"Oxford Kids and Family started because I realized I had to go to 10 different websites to figure out what was going on in town. There wasn't one specific place that puts everything in one spot," she said. "As a parent I don't have time to go to 10 different pages. I want to be able to plug into one thing and say OK this is everything that's going on and what I can do with my kids today."
Since starting the page, she has found tons of kid related things in Oxford that she never knew about, including local restaurants that offer "Kid's night." Businesses are also now e-mailing her a list of events they have going on to be added to the Facebook page.
"Part of it was to get my kids out of the house and find new things for them to do and expand their horizons," she said.
"But also it's nice to kind of give the community a common ground place to say, 'Hey this is what's going on today.'"
As far as Kids Town goes, Buckely is up to the challenge.
"I've never done anything like this before," she said. "But it is well worth it."
Those interested in sponsoring, volunteering or helping with the planning process may e-mail Meg Buckley at OxfordKidsandFamily@gmail.com.
Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.