This Is Rutherford
REA March Madness Food & Fun Day 2023
Updated: Apr 7
By Jennifer Ersalesi
Photo Credits: Rutherford Community Food Pantry
TIR: How many years has the REA March Madness Food and Fun Day taken place?
Maria DeTrizio: The REA’s Food & Fun Day started in 2017. It was originally called The REA April Food & Fun Day because it was held on April 1st. The following year, we decided to move it to March, and at that point, the name changed to the REA March Madness Food & Fun Day, and we added poster sized photos of athletes from our schools.
TIR: How is the event coordinated?
MD: The event planners are Maria De Trizio and Shaun Bach. It is planned with the help of REA (Rutherford Education Association) members. A sign-up sheet is sent out for volunteers to sign up for specific planning activities before the event, or at the event. A call for exhibits also goes out to ask for teachers to submit projects that students have worked on that can be displayed at the event. We also reach out to coaches to obtain photos of our athletes, and select some that will be blown up to poster size to hang around the gym on the day of the event. A carnival company is hired to bring carnival booths, popcorn and cotton candy machines. We also hire a magician, face painters and balloon twisters. Flyers are distributed to each student in grades Pre-K to 6, as well as to area businesses, and banners are hung outside most of the schools. The media is also contacted to put the event in their calendar sections and it is publicized online as well. The PTAs also send out a blast email prior to the event.
TIR: Why is the event important to the school community?
MD: The event is important to the school community because it gives us an opportunity to connect with the community and help those in need at the same time. It also gives us an opportunity to display some of the great things that are happening in our schools, and provide our youngest kids with a fun Saturday morning.
TIR: Why is the event important to the community at large?
MD: The event is important to the community at large because it helps those who rely on the food pantry due to food insecurity, and it also helps the community connect with what is happening in our schools. It also gives the kids an opportunity to see their teachers outside of the classroom, which they really like.
TIR: Those that attend March Madness bring items for the Rutherford Community Food Pantry. Over 50 boxes of food and toiletry items were collected for the Food Pantry this year. Where did the idea to collect items for the Pantry come about?
MD: In 2017, we wanted to do an event that would bring the community and members of the REA together, so we decided to do a food drive and include fun activities for the kids in order to attract attendees. Dave Padilla, our REA President at the time, suggested incorporating exhibits of work done by students throughout the district. And so the REA Food & Fun Day was born! This year, we collected 66 boxes of items for the food pantry, and $177 in monetary donations.
TIR: Why do you think this event is so successful?
MD: The event is a success for a variety of reasons. Our members’ willingness to give their time and talent to make it happen is key. Without them, it would not be possible, and we hope that more members will become involved in the future. The community’s generosity is also key to the success of the event. It is because of them that we are able to provide the food pantry with such a big donation. The event also provides children with fun activities and a chance to see their work on display and interact with their teachers in a different way.