Bearcat GROWLS prowls into Depot Park

Sharon Schuler Kreps
This event is a way the community can come together to help make sure every child has a great start with the right tools. Every child deserves that.”
Mary Hovater

CULLMAN – Depot Park was hopping on Saturday afternoon, as the new event, Bearcat GROWLS, took place.  There was live music by the band Avenue G, a bouncy house for the kids and various school and nonprofit info booths scattered throughout the park. Mayor Max A. Townson was there to kick off the festivities by leading everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance. Admission to the event was either new school supplies or a donation to be used by the sponsors to purchase school supplies.

“There are so many kids that don’t have the tools needed to be successful in class,” said Mary Hovater, event organizer. “Teachers know this and they, more than not, will buy extra items out of their own pockets to be prepared for those in-need students. This event is a way the community can come together to help make sure every child has a great start with the right tools. Every child deserves that.”

Amazing things begin as just a simple thought, kind of like a seed. When that seed is planted, or that thought is discussed, beautiful things begin to happen.

"Growing Resources for Our Winning Local Schools (GROWLS) came from a conversation between three band booster moms, Leeanna Smith (teacher at Cullman Christian School), LaTonya Boike (member of the band Avenue G) and myself,” Hovater continued. “We talked about how we wished we could do something to help this time of year. Well the more we talked, the more we wanted to try something… so I said I'd make come calls and see who might be interested…and, well, the rest is history!”

The simple conversation quickly turned into a reality, and before long they had a band, a bouncy house and lots of help.

“All we asked for the admission was donated school supplies,” Hovater smiled. “Those who donated received water, fresh baked goods and/or a Jim ‘N Nicks biscuit with coupons for a free meal! They were also free to roam the park visiting the information booths on where folks could get more information on the organizations and how to get grants and scholarships for college – anything to help kids!” 

Despite the dark rain clouds that loomed over the park, the event was off to a good start when the Community Lions Club stopped by and donated $500 worth of supplies! As the afternoon went on, there were other donations given which will help in so many ways.

“It is great any time we can help students prepare for school and their needs, whether it be paper, pens, crayons, whatever,” Townson said. “And I hear they have already collected over $500 of materials. Plus, they are taking cash donations, and that will be turned over to the city schools foundation. Any time we can do anything to help education, we believe in it. It is an investment, not a cost. It is an investment in the future.”

“We are starting out kind of small with this event, but hope it will grow every year,” Hovater added.

“We are just glad to be a part of this, the first annual Bearcat GROWLS,” said Jennifer Hill, representing Wallace State Community College and handing out free T-shirts. “Wallace State loves our city schools and we are glad to be here. We are in the middle of fall registration; we register through Aug. 23.”

“We are here to provide community awareness through Victim Services,” said Erin Dover of Victim Services of Cullman. “Mary had invited us and we are so excited to be a part of the day today.”

The first of what organizers hope to be an annual Bearcat GROWLS event may have been small, but it was a huge success. People from all over the community were able to enjoy the afternoon with great music and lots of fun – all while helping the less fortunate children in the area start the school year off right. 


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