Learn About Fun 4 Gator Kids’ Touch-a-Truck
It takes a community to put on event like this one! A community of giving organizations who bring vehicles and activities for your children to spend a fun day out in the sun. The following is some special recognition for the organizations who will benefit from this event and the ones that help to plan it for your family’s enjoyment.
Food4Kids Backpack Program of North Florida – Beneficiary and Organizer
The Food4Kids Backpack Program of North Florida fills backpacks with nonperishable food and distributes them to students in need, from kindergarten through high school. The kids bring these backpacks home on Friday and return them on Monday so they can be refilled for the following weekend. They also receive larger boxes of food for extended holidays and summer breaks.
Food4Kids is a 100% volunteer-run program with one basic principle in mind – we see a need and are compelled to act. Food4Kids partners with schools in our local community with the anticipation of growing to meet the needs of our county’s food insecure families.
Visit food4kidsfl.org to learn more about how you can help.
Fun 4 Gator Kids Community Giving – Organizer
Fun 4 Gator Kids Community Giving was founded by Kathy Stewart, the owner of Fun4GatorKids.com. It was created as a 501c3 charitable organization for raising funds for charities that benefit children and families around Alachua County.
Fun4GatorKids.com is a free website that lists events, activities, organizations, schools and basically everything there is to do with kids around Alachua County. It is also the founding site in the Fun 4 US Kids network of family friendly sites around the southeast United States.
Visit fun4gatorkids.com to learn more about family friendly events and activities in Alachua County.
Gainesville Fire Rescue – Organizer
Gainesville Fire Rescue’s (GFR) mission is to protect and serve through community involvement, education, prevention, and rapid intervention by professionals committed to excellence. Fire and life safety education is a top priority for GFR and we are happy to support the Fun4GatorKids Touch A Truck event!
Fire services date back to the late 1800’s in Gainesville and were volunteer-based for many years. Gainesville Fire Rescue replaced horse-drawn pumpers in 1917 and became a fully-paid fire department in 1925. We currently have eight Stations including 1 Airport Firefighting Station. In total we operate 6 Engines, 2 Towers, 1 Quint, 1 Hazmat Unit, 2 EMS Squads, 2 District Chiefs vehicles, 1 Air and Light Truck, and 3 Aircraft Firefighting units. GFR is staffed with 154 Combat Operations Personnel and 21 Support-Administrative Personnel. Our budget for FY14 was $16.2 million. GFR is funded through the City of Gainesville General Fund including revenue of approximately $5 million from the fire services special assessment. We operate with an automatic aid agreement with Alachua County Fire Rescue for closest unit response in an extended area around the City limits. Our newest additions were Fire Station 8 which opened June 27, 2011 at 3223 NW 42nd Avenue and houses Quint 8 and District 2 and an additional EMS squad in southwest Gainesville beginning June 2014.
For more information about GFR or our community outreach and education, please visit www.gfr.org, Gainesville Fire Rescue on Facebook, or call 352-334-5078.
History of the Fun 4 Gator Kids Touch-a-Truck event
Michael Manfredi started the Sweet Dreams Touch-a-Truck event with Krista Ott of Gainesville Fire Rescue’s Risk Reduction Department in 2010. Mike had served ice cream at a Touch-a-Truck in South Florida. He thought it was an awesome event for families and wanted to bring it to Gainesville. Krista was looking to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities due to children approaching large work vehicles in the community. The first event was held at the Alachua County Fairgrounds and was put together in about 3 months. It brought in 1,500 people and was a hugely successful food drive for Food4Kids Backpack Program of North Florida.
As the event grew, it became obvious that it needed to move to a venue that was more publicly accessible. In 2013 the event was moved to the soccer fields at the Northeast Complex. Since moving to this location, the event has brought in between 60 and 90 work vehicles, helicopters and vendors and about 4,300 attendees each year. The one day event has raised as much as $6,000 for Camp Amigo, a children’s burn camp run in Tallahassee which services North Florida and brought in over 2,200 pounds of food.
Fun4GatorKids.com founder Kathy Stewart had been looking for ways to give back to the community that has made her family resource website successful. She recognized that Michael Manfredi and Krista Ott had created a special event which was successful as a way to raise money and donations for children’s programs. Because Fun4GatorKids.com has such strong connections to local families and businesses, it seemed like the Touch a Truck event was the perfect fit. In addition, Kathy has started a network of local family directory websites (Fun4USKids) throughout the south east and thought this event might be something that could be duplicated by other site owners for the enjoyment of families in their areas.
In 2016 Kathy formed Fun 4 Gator Kids Community Giving and partnered with Sweet Dreams, Gainesville Fire Rescue, Food4Kids and the City of Gainesville to organize and run the event. The event has grown to about 10,000 attendees each year and has raised as much as $6,000 in proceeds for beneficiaries and over 4,000lbs of food for Food4Kids. She is committed to growing the event to be the largest Touch-a-Truck in the state of Florida.