Saturday was a good day for Ann Sanchez, who saw a better-than-expected crowd gather at Redbud Park to support the organization she founded to combat bullying.
The second annual C.A.V.E. Bash to collect toys for young people received four-times more donations on Saturday than it did last year.
When a Medivac helicopter flew over the park and landed in a show of support, Sanchez was overcome.
“When the helicopter came down I cried,” Sanchez said. “I got emotional because everything came together. I wasn’t expecting the turnout I had this year. Hoping, but not expecting.”
She founded Community Against Violent Expressions out of the pain she suffered at the hands of bullies when she was younger, as well as the ridicule she endured when she was an overweight adult.
Sanchez, 35, who grew up in Guymon and who has been in Marlow the past six years, said her mother, Coriene Riley, who has conducted food and toy drives during Christmas-time from her bar, Riley’s Place, led her to take action.
“She was my inspiration behind everything.”
During the C.A.V.E. Bash at the park, members of the Oklahoma Nightmare semipro football team, based in Duncan, passed out anti-bullying pledges on which the young people are asked to take a stand against bullying and cyber-bullying.
Rick Pinson, one of the players, told the young people at the park that more than 160,000 kids skip school everyday to avoid bullying.
Local singers and bands provided entertainment at the park and a motorcycle club called Guardians of the Children rumbled into the park to deliver a cache of new toys.
“To watch it grow is overwhelming,” Sanchez said of the campaign.