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Jun 12, 2019 9:54 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach Middle Schoolers Invite Kids To Get Messy For Those Who Can't

Alex Garcia and her teacher, Kelly Russell. ANISAH ABDULLAH
Jun 12, 2019 10:29 AM

While some people may spend this coming weekend resting under an umbrella at the beach, or sauntering along Main Street, a bunch of Westhampton Beach residents will have slime on their heads, mud on their legs, whipped cream on their faces and wet shirts as a result of the village’s first “Mess Fest” Carnival.People are getting messy for a good cause.

Students at Westhampton Beach Middle School are organizing the Mess Fest this Saturday on the school’s softball fields to raise money for childhood cancer. The event is an offshoot of the original Mess Fest held annually upstate by the Muddy Puddles Project, which has since expanded nationwide.

“It’s for kids to have fun getting messy and being wild and crazy, all in a day to honor kids who are not able to do this, because they have cancer or are fighting something—that they are in a hospital bed, or they won’t be able to jump in a muddy puddle, or get all messy with a food fight, or get splatter-painted and jump in a bounce house,” eighth-grader Alex Garcia, the event’s student leader, said.

Around 30 activities will be offered to children and adults, including food fights, Whiffle Ball, relay races, balloon and pie tosses, bumper balls, freeze dance, a slime tent, and very large mud puddles. Each station will be dedicated to a child from across the country who is either fighting cancer or has died from the disease, Alex added.

Alex came up with the idea months ago while anticipating taking Critical Literacy for the fourth quarter of this school year, beginning in April. In that class, English teacher Kelly Russell tasks her students to conceive and carry out a project that leaves a positive social impact on the community.

Ms. Russell was at Rogers Beach in January helping a group of her students host a Polar Plunge charity event for their class project when Alex ran up to her. She said she would be taking Ms. Russell’s class next quarter and knew exactly what her project was going to be.

Alex had attended the original Mess Fest event in Putnam County for years and said she knew that would be the perfect idea for her project.

The event was founded by Cindy Campbell, whose son, Ty, died of brain cancer in 2012 when he was 5 years old. Shortly after his death, Ms. Campbell created the Ty Louis Campbell Foundation, the PRET*TY merchandise brand and the Muddy Puddles Project, all to raise awareness and fund further research for childhood cancer.

Ms. Russell actually went to high school with Ms. Campbell in Wantagh and had followed her story through social media for years.

Critical Literary students typically split up into small groups, but Ms. Russell said that Alex’s enthusiasm for the project and its cause was so infectious that most of her classmates joined her in organizing the event.

“She’s such a bright and motivated young woman—probably one of the most motivated students I’ve worked with in the 20 years that I’ve taught,” Ms. Russell said. “She has mobilized our entire class. I have about 40 kids right now, currently, 36 of them are using this for their social action project, and Alex has organized all of them.”

The students were fully in charge of the planning needed to make the event possible—making phone calls, picking the activities, and handing out fliers to school staff and local business owners. They teamed up with Ms. Campbell’s organizations to ensure that the right supplies and equipment would be available for the event’s activities.

A Kona Ice shaved ice truck will be parked at the event, and 100 percent of its proceeds will go toward the Ty Louis Campbell Foundation, where the event’s ticket sales and all other donations will go as well.

“I hope that everyone has an amazing time and that they know, leaving the event, that they just helped an amazing foundation that raises money for kids that have cancer,” Alex said.

Ms. Russell and Alex both said that the community has been very supportive and eager to lend a hand. Members of the Westhampton War Memorial Volunteer Ambulance, Ms. Russell’s past students, several teachers and parents all agreed to get involved in the event. Members of the Westhampton Beach Fire Department will also be on site with lower-pressure fire hoses to clean everyone off.

The fire department’s support was special to Alex because she is a member of the department’s junior program and her father, Jorge Garcia, is a volunteer firefighter. She said, “They always tell us, ‘If you need anything, the fire department always has your back.’ And they’re always there for us, like, anytime we need anything.”

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