Just ahead of a new school year, hundreds of families gathered in Hartford for CREC’s fifth annual Back to School Block Party.
The event has quickly become a community favorite, offering free ice cream and hot dogs, along with other items like water bottles and books.
The most coveted giveaway are the backpacks stuffed with school supplies.
When the event started five years ago, CREC gave away 600 backpacks in less than two hours. Since then, they’ve doubled that number to 1,200 backpacks to give away during the three-hour event.
“Every year it gets bigger and bigger,” said Aura Alvarado, CREC’s Director of Communications and Community Relations. “The best part that makes me full of joy is that this is the time that we all come together. Does not matter if you’re from the South End, if you speak Spanish, English, if you go to a CREC school or a Hartford school or a Goodwin tech school—you are welcomed here in the Greater Hartford community.”
At the Ice Cream for a Dream truck, students were asked to share their dreams in exchange for a free frozen treat.
Eight-year-old Nathaniel dreamed of being superhero The Flash but had some more practical ideas as well.
“Make lots of money, have a good job, and live in a condo with my sister,” he said. His younger sister sat nearby in a stroller.
Inside, CREC offered free haircuts and hair services through its pop-up barbershop and salon. Tameka Bailey watched as her son got his haircut and daughter had her hair braided.
“The kids always want to go back to school looking fly,” Bailey said. “It boosts their self-esteem and their confidence as well. I know my son, once he’s done with his haircut he’s going to be in the mirror like all day, every day.”
Other partners like Open Choice gave away books, and CT Transit offered free bus passes and a chance for students to hop in the drivers’ seat to feel what it’s like behind the big steering wheel.
Food trucks on-site offered $5 specials for families in attendance.
According to the U.S. Census, the average household income in Hartford is $33,841 and 30.5% of city residents live below the poverty line.
Wednesday’s event provided services for more than 3,000 residents.