Thursday, April 16, 2009

Pay it Forward Fest set for Saturday

Hayrides, games, karaoke and a guest appearance from Tennessee Titans mascot T-RAC will highlight the second annual Pay it Forward Festival in downtown Nashville this Saturday.

The event is from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Tennessee Children's Home on Main Street and benefits six charities: Curesearch (childhood cancer research), Soles4Souls, the Tennessee Children's Home, the Multiple Sclerosis Society, Teen Challenge and the future Arborvitae Home in Spring Hill.

Admission is a canned food item or a pair of new or gently used shoes. Money will be raised through donations, sponsors, nominal ticket prices for games and a silent auction with items and services donated by area businesses.

"All this is being done just by using the resources we have in the community," said event organizer Darrell Digby.

All money raised and donated items will go to support the charities and a few local families that have recently been through tragedy.

Last year's event raised $3,300 and collected 750 pairs of shoes, Digby said. This year, volunteers hope to raise $30,000 and collect 3,000 pairs of shoes. Digby hopes that's possible since the first year was planned in just five weeks.

"This year our goals are much higher because we've had a whole year to plan for it," he said.

Digby said he is working with Soles4Souls to help distribute the shoes as well as to deliver money raised to the other charities.

Julie Stauss, operations manager for the Nashville office of Soles4Souls, said the organization plans to have a vehicle at the Tennessee Children's Homes a few days before the festival for shoe donations.

"Darrell has been a delight to work with," she said. "The hardest thing is getting the word out, and he's helped us get so many (collection) boxes out in the community. I think he's already got a half a garage full of shoes collected."

Stauss said they are happy to work with Digby until he secures nonprofit status for future events and applauded the festival's concept, which she said fits Souls4Souls' mission.

"Financially, it may be hard to give cash right now, but everybody has shoes they can donate," she said.

Digby, who has lived in Spring Hill since 2001, said the movie Pay it Forward inspired him to plan last year's event with friends.

"I don't have a whole lot of money to change somebody's life, but I can do something," he said. "I woke up in the middle of the night, and this idea was in my head and I could not get it out. That's it. I just want this to be successful and really take off."

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