Record Crowd at Party in the Park

“This has been the best year yet,” said Christine Vatuone, CEO/executive director of pregnancy resource center Informed Choices, one of 25 community-based organizations distributing information at Party in the Park at San Ysidro Park on Aug. 12.

Featuring a climbing wall, jump house, live DJ music, dance performances and an assortment of games and prizes for the kids, the final installment of the fourth annual event series aimed to beat its previous attendance record set last month, when 650 people strolled, cycled or drove to the eastside 9-acre park.

“Two hundred and fifty was our largest attendance before,” said Brian Hames, coordinator of the event, which aims to create safe, community spaces in neighborhoods with a history of gang activity.

“We want to raise awareness and provide information on the many resources that are available to people,” said Hames, adding the event was modeled after Los Angeles’ Parks After Dark and is similar to Viva Parks! in San Jose, a series of free public events that focus on health and wellness resources, physical activities, and community engagement.

In a half-circle of tables around the handball courts were representatives from agencies including CalWorks, Planned Parenthood, Santa Clara County Re-Entry Resource Center and clinics providing free health screenings.

Getting a jump on Attendance Awareness Month in September, employees of Gilroy Unified School District were also on hand, reminding parents to get their children back to school on the first day of classes and promoting “Challenge Five”—encouraging students to have less than five days of absence per year.

Jennifer DelBono, GUSD program administrator for school climate and student attendance said the district is looking at ways of partnering with local businesses to incentivize student attendance and hopes to launch a program soon.

“We have such incredible partnerships in Gilroy,” she said.

Gilroy resident Michael Martinez said he’d been going to Fifth Street Live downtown on Friday nights this summer but decided to come to the park with his seven-year-old son, Brayden, now smiling widely with his new balloon hat and pirate sword, after seeing a flyer at soccer signups.

Over at the face-painting booth, Hollister residents Emma Torres and husband, Gabriel, with their three kids, Emily, Andrew and Bianca, looked through their goodie bags.

“There is a lot of good information about the local nonprofits,” said Emma, who saw the event notice in Out and About magazine and decided to check it out. “We all run into people that could use this type of help and if we have these resources, we can pass it on to them.”

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