Harrison County

Business owners’ call to police leads to family fun for first-responders

Lillian Manoram tries a game of Kerplunk during the Family Fun Night for first responders Sunday at Lynn Meadows Discovery Center. Her parents, Drew Manoram and Julia Sandoval, had come to Southern Bouncers' event to see their son perform in a skit.
Lillian Manoram tries a game of Kerplunk during the Family Fun Night for first responders Sunday at Lynn Meadows Discovery Center. Her parents, Drew Manoram and Julia Sandoval, had come to Southern Bouncers' event to see their son perform in a skit. Robin Fitzgerald

A recent need for help from police led a couple who own a business to come up with a Family Fun Night for first-responders in Harrison County.

Lynn Meadows Discovery Center agreed to open up its grounds and facilities and numerous businesses and volunteers donated items and time to help Southern Bouncers make it happen Sunday night.

Mark Powell and his wife, Alicia Parker Powell, own the party rental business, which has equpment including slides and bounce houses. About a month ago, they called police, because someone didn’t want to give back their equipment.

“It was scary,” Mark Powell said.

“But we got to thinking that police and not only police, firefighters as well, do so much for our community. We’d heard about police getting shot in Dallas, and we decided we wanted to do something for the first-responders who protect us.”

Due to rain, the turnout wasn’t as high as expected. But the Powells’ idea turned into a night of free food and fun for those who came out.

Benjamen Bentz, a Gulfport police officer for nearly seven years, brought his wife, their year-old daughter and a niece and nephew, ages 4 and 5.

“It’s something to do with the family,” Bentz said. His nephew Grayson wanted to go inside Lynn Meadows and see what he called “the paint aisle.”

What did 8-year-old Gabriella Lopez enjoy the most?

“Pizza,” she said with a grin. She’s the daughter of Biloxi firefighter Justin Lopez and retired Biloxi firefighter Curtis Lopez.

Curtis Lopez said he might view the Smithsonian Institute’s traveling sports exhibit while there.

Harrison County Sheriff’s Sgt. Robert Lincoln and his wife, Michelle, came with their 7-year-old daughter, Shelby. Though most of the inflatables and bounce houses planned weren’t set up because of low attendance and weather, Shelby had all the time she wanted to enjoy an inflatable slide.

“It was a perfect fit,” said Cindy DeFrances, Lynn Meadows executive director.

“We open up for free to the public the last Friday night each month to make sure those who can’t afford to pay can still come. We were glad to help show appreciation for our first-responders.”

Youths from the WINGS For Performing Arts put on a skit.

Paula Lewis invited people of all ages to try Pound Fitness, exercise routines using colorful drum sticks and music.

Pizza, hotdogs and snowballs were available and there was face-painting and activities for preschoolers.

Sonny Nelson, head elder of Gulf Coast 7th Day Adventists, was among the volunteers.

“Anything we can do to show we care about our community, we’re glad to do,” Nelson said. “We’re glad to come show appreciation to those who help protect us and their families.”

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