Once the doors opened for Family Fun Night at Simons Recreation Center this past Friday, Aniyah Shubert, 9, ran in line to grab a free Philly soft pretzel. Standing nearby, her mother, Alicia Shubert, told NewsWorks that events like this come in handy during hard times.
“We’re usually not able to go to a lot of events if we have to pay for them,” said Shubert, “but when I saw that the event was free, I thought it was something to definitely bring my daughter to.”
Hosted by state Rep. Dwight Evans, the free, 30-year-old event has grown from board games and spaghetti nights with only a few people in attendance to ice-skating, dancing and games for hundreds of guests.
“This was the highest turnout we’ve ever had,” said Vernon Smith who is the legislative aid for Evans and the coordinator of the event.
Dance performances, award ceremonies and games of musical chairs took over the gym while vendors provided job, educational and community resource information outside.
Awards were given out to four individuals who have volunteered their time to the center, including the site’s director, Donnell Martin, who started coming to the facility when he was 14 years old. Awardees received a plaque and certificate of appreciation highlighting the work they do for the center.
Martin, who has been director for the past six years, said that although the event has grown tremendously, he wants to see it get even bigger.
“I like to think big, so we’re going to do what we can to let more people know about this free event and get them to join in on the fun.”
The remainder of the night was filled with activities for both adults and children alike including a cooking demonstration, health expo, arts and crafts activities, line dancing and more.
“Sometimes we forget about what’s most important, like spending time with your kids,” said Evans. “The purpose of this event was to bring people together. The event is always a hit because it’s free and fun.”