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Smiles Across Pahrump: Photos from this festival will make you grin

Smiles Across Pahrump returned this month to the valley for the first time since 2019. Families were invited out for a day of unplugged, technology-free fun, continuing a tradition started by the late Butch “Patches” Harper.

Known as the goodwill ambassador of Pahrump, Harper was a man for whom smiles meant the world and as such, he wanted to give families a wholesome reason for grinning from ear to ear, with absolutely no costs attached. When he passed away in 2015, the Kiwanis Club stepped in to host Smiles Across Pahrump before passing the torch to Moose Lodge #808. The pandemic then put a pause on the event for a full three years, so organizers were more than a little excited to finally be able to hold it once more.

Kicking off at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 26, Smiles Across Pahrump had plenty to offer in the way of entertainment, with all sorts of school-carnival style games such as duck pond, corn hole and ring toss. Youngsters were able to hit the coloring table and puzzle table as well and face painting was a big draw, as were chances for selfies with a variety of character princesses. Of course, the main attraction was the drawing for a brand new bicycle, with every child who brought in a work detailing what a smile means to them earning an entry into that drawing.

Taking part were Olson Farms, Children’s Dentistry, Wish Upon a Princess, Cinderella Girls, I Think I Can Life Coaching, Crazy Calico, GolfCartNV.com, the NyE Communities Coalition, Valley Electric Association, the Southern Nevada Detention Center and Brenda Todd Realtor. Each sponsored a table that offered a game or activity as well as volunteers or bikes and members of the Moose Lodge itself were out in force, too, helping to make a great day for everyone.

“Overall, Smiles Across Pahrump went well. We had somewhere between 45 and 55 kids alone, plus parents and volunteers. We’d hoped for a bigger turnout, but for the kids who did attend, they seemed to be having a great time,” Moose member and event lead Chanda Wieland reported following the event. “Kids brought great essays and for the younger ones, great pictures about what a smile means to them. One particular letter had several of the volunteers that read it in tears.”

Wieland said the event is quite special in its ability to bring smiles not only to the attendees but to those manning the booths, too.

“This event makes so many of the adults that help run it smile, watching all the kids’ faces as their name gets called for the bikes,” she said. “We wish we’d had enough bikes for everyone who came, maybe next year. But we didn’t do too bad, giving away more than 30 bikes that afternoon. And believe it or not, not every child cared about going home with a bike!”

Wieland said one particular family of six had gone in the hopes that just one of its youngster would get a bike. “The others didn’t even enter because they felt they didn’t need to. This was interesting in a world full of greed, that parents are teaching their children to share or even pass on an amazing opportunity for something free they could have taken and then sold, to give another child the chance for something they may really need,” she remarked.

On the other side of the spectrum, there was another family with five children, all of whom were wishing for a bike that they could ride to school. “The mom explained that their family doesn’t have a car and they really needed those bikes. Karma stepped in and I think they did get three, four or maybe even all five of the bikes they were hoping for. Things like this make me proud to be part of the Pahrump Moose, who lets us have the opportunity to make a small thing this impactful in a child’s or family’s life,” Wieland said.

She had an abundance of gratitude to share, as well, thanking the Moose Lodge and its members for donating food, prizes and their own time and energy. Also on the list to thank were the event’s two sponsors, presenting sponsor Sheri’s Ranch and junior sponsor the Avery Project.

Sheri’s Ranch provided 25 bikes for the event, as well as dozens of backpacks that had been left over after the Back to School Fair in July. “We handed those out to each child for two purposes, carrying the prizes they won that day and to use for school later,” Wieland stated.

As for the Avery Project, this initiative was started by local middle schooler Avery Sampson, with the help of her father. The Avery Project aims to provide bikes for area youth, so it was a perfect fit for the youngster to get involved by donating six bicycles.

There were several individuals whose contributions could not go unrecognized, with Wieland stating, “In no particular order, thanks to Georgia Smith, Linda Kaucky, Vann and Miller, Ms. Senior Golden Years Queen 2019 Laraine Babbitt, Tracy Reiss, Bonnie Andoe, Dennis London, Tracey Moza, Bobbi Riggs, Lori Andrenovitz and ‘Scott’. This event takes several thousand dollars to put on so donations are greatly appreciated. And to the volunteers who came out and helped set up the day before, morning of, during the event and everyone who stayed to help clean up afterward and to the cooks in the kitchen making hotdogs for everyone, I appreciate all that you did to help make this event a huge success. We’re looking forward to next year.”

Anyone interested in participating in or donating to the 2024 Smiles Across Pahrump event should email PahrumpMoose@gmail.com

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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