Silly Socks Saturday Draws 120 People To 3rd Annual Fundraiser
by James Coulter
Not even the fear of COVID-19 could prevent people from flocking to Cypress Lanes on Saturday to participate in an annual fundraiser for a local non-profit organization.
More than 120 people arrived at the Winter Haven bowling alley for a night of bowling, raffles, and other fundraising activities for Silly Socks Saturday, a local charity that helps deliver bags filled with toys and toiletries to children in the hospital.
Even despite the current pandemic, the annual fundraiser drew in a large turnout with a full house that evening, though participants were mindful to maintain social distancing and wear a mask.
More than $230 alone were raised through the 50/50 raffle, more money than had ever been raised at the fundraiser previously, explained Zachary Kirkland, founder and president of Silly Socks Saturday.
“This has been a much bigger turnout than any other year,” he said. “We never raised that much with a raffle. It has been an amazing event and a great experience to get the community together during this time.”
Being able to draw in such a large turnout with so many proceeds, especially during such uncertain times when people are cautious about leaving home, more than exceeded their expectations, and proved that Silly Socks has great support from the local community, Zachary said.
Silly Socks Saturday started three years ago as a school project by young Zachary. He and a few family members and classmates collected donations for small toys and toiletries to pack into gift bags and deliver to children staying at Lakeland Hospital. What started as a class project soon grew into a successful award-winning 401c3 non-profit organization, even winning a grant from Disney Be Inspired.
Zachary and his crew have not been able to make their monthly deliveries to the hospital due to the pandemic. They hope to return there one day when everything eventually passes and they can continue to brighten the visit of the children staying there, he said.
“This pandemic has reminded me about what I do for the kids, and how much are in the hospital right now, how they only get one visitor, and how it is hard for them,” Zachary said.
Dianne Forcier, Zachary’s mother, was especially pleased at the turnout that evening. The large event, even despite the current pandemic, proved that their organization is growing in both strength and support.
“I think we over-exceeded our expectations with everything going on,” she said. “[We hope to] just to keep growing and making a difference with all of the kids being helped in the hospital…We are in limbo right now with not being able to go into the hospital and make the donations, but we are prepared to be ready to go.”
Megan Gills currently serves as the vice president. Her eldest daughter and Zachary have grown up together since kindergarten. So when she was asked by Zachary to help serve on his board, she was more than eager to do so.
“I was honored for him to ask me to serve on his board,” she said. “He knows I serve on various other boards in the community, and thought it would be a good asset to help him get his board rolling.”
As someone who has been on board with the organization since it first started, Megan has seen Silly Socks grow and evolve. She appreciates the work it does for the local community, and how much the local community supports it in turn.
“There are so many great opportunities to serve and to volunteer, and of course, the bowling fundraiser is one of the best,” she said. “I am extremely proud of how the turnout has been…and everyone is having fun.”