A lesson in sharing with those less fortunate at Thanksgiving came across to youngsters sitting on hay bales as they watched a classic animated cartoon and ate what many kids love — pretzels, jelly beans, popcorn and ice cream.
“It’s good,” Haven Jackson, 6, said.
Children were asked to bring cans of tuna or some other meat to donate to the food bank as they entered to watch the cartoon on a big screen. Parents or other adults accompanied them, swelling the crowd to about 100 and making it a family event.
The children also saw a video about the food bank’s mission to feed the hungry across East Texas.
In the special, Charlie Brown and his gang come together and make a Thanksgiving feast of items they could get their hands on, such as popcorn, pretzels, toast and jelly beans.
The movie “is really about being thankful,” said Dennis Cullinane, executive director of East Texas Food Bank. “It’s a wonderful movie,” he added.
The purpose in showing the 1973 classic to today’s youngsters — and giving them a talk about the food bank — was to teach them that there are children not as fortunate as they are, and they should be thankful and give back to the community through the food bank and places like it, Cullinane said.
The event was “awesome,” Justin Jackson, a parent, said. “It’s nice to give to the food bank and they put on a nice show, a good classic cartoon,” he added.
Ashley Barr and Aaron Ramirez, who brought their 3-year-old son, agreed.
Ramirez said the boy really liked the jelly beans, popcorn and sweets.
Added to the program this year was a time for children to use crayons to write or draw on a paper plate things they are thankful for, said Michael Hetrick, the food bank’s online communications manager.
Stopping at the coloring booth, Hattie Schneider, 3, said she was thankful for her mom and dad. Her brother, Holden Schneider, 6, drew stick figures of two friends for whom he is thankful.
Each year, the children love coming and getting to eat jelly beans, their mother, Meagan Schneider, said.
Joining in staging the event was Leadership Tyler 24, an organization that conducts yearlong, team-building leadership development classes.
The idea for a local Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Feast was born in the mind of class member Brian Pearson’s oldest son, Curt, and made its debut in the family’s backyard before Thanksgiving 2007. The boy was 5 at the time but now is a fifth-grader at Rice Elementary School.
Describing his son as imaginative and tending to think out of the box, Pearson recalled that his son back then wanted to have a feast with all the staples of a Charlie Brown feast, plus mashed potatoes.
Although maybe two children were expected, Pearson said, “Twenty kids showed up and it blew our minds that it caught on so quickly.”
“I always kept that in the back of my mind as something that might be some sort of community event at some point,” Pearson said.
Accordingly, he pitched the idea three years ago to his Leadership Tyler 24 class that was considering community projects to undertake. The class decided to have a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Feast at Discovery Science Place to bring exposure to the museum and benefit the food bank.
That year, approximately 150 people attended to see the cartoon that originally aired as a television special and ate toast, pretzel sticks, popcorn, jelly beans and ice cream.
Last year, the event was moved to the food bank to better make the connection with giving to the needy through the Food Bank at Thanksgiving and being thankful, said Cullinane, also a member of the leadership class.
Children were asked to donate peanut butter that time, and two huge drums were filled with peanut butter jars.
The food bank is a nonprofit organization that distributes nearly 19 million pounds of food annually to more than 200 agencies that operate food pantries in 26 East Texas counties.
The Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Feast is a way to increase awareness of the food bank, teach children about what it does and what they can do and to convey the importance of volunteering to help people that need help, Cullinane said.
The feast is promoted through social media networks, a Facebook page, the food bank’s website, the Tyler Morning Telegraph and radio shows.
“We are expecting this to be an annual event for years to come,” Pearson said.