Carnival puts the fun in fundraising
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sharon McCartney and Raelyn Meadows, both 5, flashed toothless smiles as they rode a pony for the first time Wednesday evening.
Their grandmother, Karen McCartney, watched and waved at the two girls.
"Meemaw that was fun!" Sharon McCartney shouted as she got off the brown pony.
Next, the trio from Charleston's West Side hopped on the carousel during the carnival at Charleston Civic Center's parking lot on Lee Street.
The carnival stopped in town this week to help support Mountain Mission, a nonprofit, faith-based organization that helps Kanawha Valley residents who experience unexpected financial emergencies.
The group helped more than 14,000 people last year pay for utilities, medications, housing, transportation and more.
Residents in need collected food, clothing and furniture from the organization, which is located at 1620 Seventh Ave. in Charleston.
Those in the crowd who donated one can of food received $1 off the purchase of an $18 wristband, which gave guests unlimited access to the Ferris wheel, merry-go-round and the other rides.
The donations of food will fill Mountain Mission's pantry. The pantry distributes at least 130 food orders a month to individuals and families.
Mountain Mission will also get proceeds from the carnival's ticket sales for each ride, game and access to the petting zoo.
"I think it's wonderful to help out people who are hungry and need things," Karen McCartney said. "I donate to Mountain Mission and it's nice to see [the carnival] helping out, too."
The money benefits the organization's emergency assistance programs.
Mountain Mission is building a wheelchair ramp for one disabled woman and providing the basic needs, such as giving food and helping pay the utilities, for a woman who has breast cancer, said John Roberts, executive director of Mountain Mission.
Roberts said the group's goal is to raise up to $10,000 from the five-day fundraiser.
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"The more success the carnival has, the better success our programs will have," Roberts said, "and that's why we really need the community to come out, do something positive for your family and give them good, clean fun.
"It's good for the economy, the families in the area that will receive services through us and it's a good family atmosphere," he said.
Roberts said this is the first time the organization has hosted a carnival as a fundraiser.
Gambill Amusements Co., owner of the carnival, reached out to the nonprofit to organize a fundraiser since the traveling entertainment was in town, he said.
Mountain Mission partnered with the carnival company and the Civic Center to host the downtown center's first carnival in more than 20 years.
"We have never done anything like this," Roberts said. "This is very exciting for us because usually a lot of our fundraising events are very serious and you need to pull on the heartstrings of individuals, but this fundraiser is just fun."
Sisters Ashlee Arbaugh, 8, and Kimberlee Arbaugh, 5, said they had a lot of fun as they carried their stuffed animal prizes of seahorses, a snake and a monkey they won for popping balloons with darts and fishing out sharks with magnetic poles.
The Arbaughs, with their mother, Sarah Schmidt of Charleston, celebrated their wins with a slice of pizza, a large salted pretzel and deep-fried Oreos.
Roberts said with school being out for the summer -- which means fewer meals for some children -- Mountain Mission requests more donations during the three-month break.
That's why the carnival fundraiser, an event targeted toward children, is an ideal way to raise money throughout the warm weather, Roberts said.
Mountain Mission and the carnival owners would like to make the fundraiser an annual event as long as they can use the Civic Center's parking lot to host it, he said.
To learn more about Mountain Mission, or to donate, visit www.mountainmission.com or call 304-344-3407.
Reach Megan Workman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5113.