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story.lead_photo.caption Fulton's new program Bright Futures will be holding its kick-off fundraising event with the fall festival and Monster Dash 5K taking place from 9-11:30 a.m. Oct. 26 at the YMCA of Callaway County. Photo by Quinn Wilson / Fulton Sun.

Fulton's new program Bright Futures will be holding its kick-off fundraising event Oct. 26.

The community initiative, launched in January, aims to meet students' basic needs within the Fulton Public Schools district. The program was introduced to the Fulton community by FPS employee Danielle Westmoreland after she witnessed its success in Mexico.

"I'm the one who brought it up (to FPS)," said Westmoreland, who is now in her third year. "I had the background with Bright Futures in Mexico and saw what a positive impact it had on students and the community."

The kick-off event will be a fall festival and Monster Dash 5K taking place at the YMCA of Callaway County. Planned for 9-11:30 a.m., it'll feature free pumpkin painting, face painting and a bounce house in addition to the race. Race participation costs $15, and runners are encouraged to dress up in costumes.

Westmoreland and FPS Superintendent Jacque Cowherd watched how the district's past initiatives to supported students' basic needs in the past and felt a structured system like Bright Futures was practical. Cowherd acknowledged there are a number of students within the district who suffer from a lack of food and resources because of their home life situation.

"We thought this might be a way to benefit everyone in the community," Cowherd said.

Bright Futures is a national program. When a local community starts its own initiative, they are given access to Bright Futures resources and their own Facebook page. When a student has an immediate need — like a new pair of shoes — teachers can post to the page, allowing community members to rapidly respond. Most needs are met within 24 hours in Bright Futures communities, Westmoreland said.

Fulton Police Department Sgt. Lance Reams is the board chairman for Bright Futures and felt supplying the community's children with basic needs was important to him. Reams told the story of a student within the district who was unable to get the necessary shots to attend school because they were "couch surfing" from home to home. He said Bright Futures addressed the student's need almost immediately.

"I think it's important because there are many homeless students within our community and they are struggling just to have the common need of tennis shoes and toothpaste," Reams said.

He said the program benefits all students within the FPS district from preschool to 12th grade. Bright Futures will also be starting a mentor program to help keep students on track to success.

"This community has been very generous to a lot of folks and we're trying to keep kids healthy and full because we know that those kids learn a lot easier than when you're sick and hungry," Cowherd said.

Westmoreland said everyone participating is encouraged to come dressed up and emphasized the importance to bring the whole family to the event. Tacos & Tequila will also be hosting a community night Tuesday where 15 percent of the proceeds will go to Bright Futures.

"It's important to participate because it's family fun and it's a great way to get involved in the community," Westmoreland said. "The health of our kids is in direct relation to the health of our community."

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