Kids Fest provides free activities for children

Published 9:44 am Tuesday, June 18, 2024

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For those looking for an opportunity to provide their children with a lot of fun while helping to fight drug addiction, Kids Fest is set with full day of activities at the Harlan Center free of charge from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, June 22.

According to the city of Harlan Tourism’s Facebook page, Visit Harlan County, the event is sponsored by Operation UNITE along with ARH (Appalachian Regional Healthcare), Pinnacle Treatment Centers, Harlan Recovery Services, CrossFit Finish Vertical, Tri-State Inflatables, and Total Auto Service.

The day of fun will feature activities including face painting, a duck pond, food, inflatables, art therapy, a kiddie train, basketball, Dunk a Cop, pony rides, a petting zoo, games, prizes, and speakers throughout the event.

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Amber Stepp, of Harlan ARH Hospital and Vice-Chairperson of the Harlan UNITE Coalition, talked about the upcoming event during a recent interview.

“We decided we wanted to do something about drug abuse prevention that’s fun for the kids,” Stepp said. “We came up with the Kid’s Fest, and we’ve got a lot of fun activities planned.”

According to Stepp, there is a UNITE Coalition in each county. The Coalitions are funded by Operation UNITE.

Stepp explained how the concept for Kids Fest came about.

“We were thinking about things we could do for our community,” Stepp said. “Last year, we had thought about a Kids Fest with everything free for the kids where we can have team building activities. This year, we spoke of it again.”

This year, the event is happening.

“Everybody jumped on board,” Stepp said. “Everyone was super excited about it.”

Stepp explained the event will address the drug abuse issue through speakers and fun activities.

“We have Jocie Cruse, he is the drug prevention specialist for Operation Unite,” Stepp said. “We’ve also got the Harlan County Sheriff’s Office, they’ve volunteered to sit in a dunking booth. We’re hoping that helps to break the stigma that cops are bad.”

Stepp explained that children raised in homes with addiction issues are often taught the police are bad. She said the idea is to show those children the police are there to help them.

“We’re hoping this will help break the stigma and show that police are here to protect and serve,” Stepp said.

Stepp mentioned the Harlan County Sheriff’s Office will also have an education booth in operation along with the Dunk a Cop activity.

Stepp pointed out children of all ages are encouraged to attend, with the first hour of the event featuring activities for special needs children.

“We’ll have basketball games and other things for the older kids,” Stepp said.

Stepp noted Operation UNITE is responsible for many positive activities.

“Operation UNITE actually funds a lot of things in the community,” Stepp said. “I know that here at ARH they’ve bought recovery books, they help with our court program, they fund activities for drug court, they help Harlan Recovery Services, they fund a lot of events.”

For more information on Kids Fest go to the Harlan UNITE Coalition Facebook page. More information on Operation UNITE can be found on their website at