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Praisin' in the Park gets 'Extreme' makeover

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By Shaina Stockton, Staff

Local churches are uniting to bring a four-night youth event back to Galax on July 21-24, this year with a focus on extreme sports and skateboarding.

Praisin' in the Park Extreme 2013 will kick off its celebrations at Felts Park in Galax on July 21 at 6:30 p.m.
Beginning with events like a professional skateboard demonstration, local band performances and free hot dogs, the celebration will continue through July 24 with many different sports-themed activities.
The idea for Praisin' in the Park was sparked several years ago by Robin Pack, a member of Mt. Vale United Methodist Church, according to Jennifer Morris of Cornerstone Community Church in Galax. Together, they worked with her idea to create a fun, outdoor church presence for children.
Pack hoped that the unique celebration might reach children who had never been in a church environment before.
Activities are mainly geared towards rising kindergartners through rising seventh graders, but older youths can also benefit from activities during kickoff night and through volunteering the rest of the week, Morris says. The event is always held during the third week of July.
Thanks to effort put in by many of the area’s local churches, the event has returned each year with a new theme, offering fun activities and inspiring Bible lessons. The money is raised for the event each year by church contributions, as well as donations from local businesses and individuals. “It is really a community effort,” Morris said.
As many as 15 different churches have participated in the event at one time, and volunteers usually number around 75 per night. Participating kids average a head count of 300 each year.
This year, four main churches are sponsoring the event: Cornerstone Community Church, Mt. Vale United Methodist Church, Cliffview Church of God and First Baptist Church of Galax.
“Others will volunteer as well. Some will bring a meal, and some will send volunteers,” Morris said.  
This year’s theme is extreme sports, with activities like soccer, football, whiffle-ball and cheerleading. Cliffview Church will also organize a series of “crazy games,” with activities like water balloon fights, Morris said.
The events will begin with a kickoff night, featuring a demonstration by skateboarding evangelist Tim Byrne, followed by a message for both kids and youths. The night will also feature performances from local bands and free hot dogs.
Throughout the rest of the week, there will also be fun additions like inflatables, cotton candy and snow-cones.
With the success of previous years, Morris is excited for the week to begin. “It’s been awesome, the volunteers love it as well as the kids. It’s been very well received,” she said.
Morris extended her thanks to all of the current and previous volunteers and sponsors, and added that help is always welcomed and appreciated. “If anyone wants to volunteer or donate, please feel free to contact us,” she said.

Praisin' in the Park nights are July 21-24 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Felts Park. Admission is free to the public. For more information, call Morris at (276) 233-2567.