WHEELING, W.Va (WTRF) – Hundreds of families gathered at Wheeling Park’s Ice Rink Thursday for Youth Services System’s (YSS) 15th Annual Celebrate Youth Festival.  

The event is organized to give back to the community and celebrate youth before they head back into the classroom.  

7News spoke with several YSS members and some kids who shared some of their favorite parts of the day.  

In the words of Tammy Kruse, YSS director of development and public relations, the Celebrate Youth Festival is more than just a “free” day at Wheeling Park. 

“So one of the things we always want to make sure that we do is giveaway school supplies. School supplies aren’t cheap. So, we can start everybody off with a backpack, a string backpack and some school supplies. It helps offset the cost for the families and it gives the kids an energy to go back to school and be ready to have their school supplies.”

Tammy Kruse | Director of Development and Public Relations, YSS

The festival also had nearly 60 different exhibitors in attendance.  

At least two different universities, The Health Plan and Easter Seals were among the tables offering resources for the whole family.  

“We have an opportunity to make sure that the families who need the resources that are found around here, around the tables, they can go in and they can find jobs or look to go to college or go to school. So, it’s a good plethora of people just coming together, nonprofits and for profits, just to figure out what the family and the communities need and just making sure that they have the resources here for them.” 

Tammy Kruse | Director of Development and Public Relations, YSS

Jermaine Lucious has been with YSS for 17 years now and has been a huge part of making Celebrate Youth Festival happen since it first started 15 years ago.  

He has seen first-hand the positive impact this festival has for local families.  

“15 years of kids, a whole generation of kids have come through here. I’ve seen kids bring their kids. I remember them when they were kids when they came. So just their energy gives me energy. I think it’s nice for families to not have to worry about costs of paying for things, especially with prices that they are today. There’s something for people to come out to that takes no thought. Just come out and have a good time.”  

Jermaine Lucious | YSS Counselor

And having a good time at the Celebrate Youth Festival was not hard with so many fun activities!

Kids could do anything they wanted in the whole park from swimming, to paddle boating or even mini golfing.  

After kids picked out their own school supplies, they could get their face painted and play on bouncy houses.  

“My favorite part was getting my hair sprayed.” 

Arya | Attended 2023 Celebrate Youth Festival, Entering 2nd Grade

“(Reporter: What was your favorite part about the event here today?) Castiel: Uh, the face painting. (Reporter: Why the face painting would you say?) Castiel: Because I got a dog. (Reporter: What do you plan to do with the rest of your day? There’s a lot of stuff to do!”) Castiel: Swimming, golfing and boating.” 

Castiel | Attended 2023 Celebrate Youth Festival, Entering 5th Grade

YSS hosts this event every year at the beginning of August completely free for the whole community to come together to celebrate the new school year.

YSS also provided free lunch for everyone at the festival.  

Even though the event finished at 4 p.m., families were still able to enjoy everything at Wheeling Park past that time as long as they had a wrist band.