FORT MILL — Children ran screaming in excitement toward the table, on which more than 1,000 books waited to bring happiness to each of them.
The Fort Mill Rotary Club’s first annual literacy picnic was held Thursday at the Anne Springs Close Greenway.
“We are trying to get children excited about reading,” said rotary club member Ann Edenfield. “It is our way of giving back to the community.”
More than 1,500 people turned out.
“We’re thrilled,” Edenfield said. Edenfield recognized the people who contributed to the events. “We couldn’t do this without Anne Springs Close,” she said.
The Greenway named after the matriarch of fort Mill’s first family donated use of the Bruce Rush Pavilion and contributed to the food for the picnic. The Fort Mill Publix also helped sponsor the event.
Scholastic donated the books and ensured each children left with at least one, said Scott Mayberry, a sales manager for Scholastic. “[This event] fits right in with our mission to raise readers,” he said.
Mayberry said seeing the excitement on the children’s faces made his day.
“It makes me feel good about what I do,” he said. “It’s the whole reason I work for the company.”
Letting the children choose their own book will help them gain interest in reading, Mayberry said.
“It just takes one book,” he said.
Choice is one of the most important aspects in getting children reading from the start, said Steve Black, a Scholastic book fair consultant.
“Choice makes a lifelong reader,” he said.
Black said book fairs have become an opportunity to promote reading.
“We consider book fairs a literacy event rather than a fundraiser,” he said.
Carolina Panthers mascot Sir Purr, Clifford the Big Red Dog and the S.C. Strawberry Festival mascot also made appearances. Josh the Otter came to share the importance of water safety and read the children a book. Fort Mill Fire Rescue gave the kids tours of the fire truck and ambulance.
For 6-year-old Sophia, meeting Sir Purr was her favorite part of the day.
“I like animals,” she said.
Her mother, Paige Carnevale, said she brought her son and daughter out to celebrate the value of books.
“They both love to read,” she said.
Members from the Fort Mill Rotary’s Interact club volunteered to hand out books to the children. The members are also students at Fort Mill High School.
Interact sponsor Kari Jones, 25, said this is one way the club gives back to the community.
“We know how important reading is,” she said. “We are excited to see the kids come.”
Interact member Erica Powell, 14, said she hopes to get the kids into what she enjoys.
“I love books,” she said.
Interact’s Alexis Anthony, 17, saw the event as an escape.
“It was a time to step away from school life and put the focus on other people,” she said.
“It was a great opportunity to see the community interacting and being together,” Lia Plankenhorn, 18, said.