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Backpacks distributed at back to school BBQ

four children with backpacks

At the end of a long, fun day at Mary Nelson‘s Youth Day Barbeque, Tarrence, 11; Keshawn, 7; Anastashia, 4; and SirDraco, 6, relax with the new backpacks they received at the barbeque. The children are students at Elmwood Elementary School in Syracuse; Nelson is an employee of Upstate Medical University.

Thousands of Syracuse children and their families are ready for the new school year, thanks to receiving back packs and school supplies at the annual Mary Nelson Youth Day Barbeque, held on Saturday in the 8-block area surrounding Beauchamp Library on South Salina St. in Syracuse. Nelson, an Upstate Radiology employee, started the barbeque ten years ago to encourage young people to stay in school. (That year, her nephew was a victim of gun violence. Mary turned her grief into a mission to help Syracuse children.)

Close to 500 volunteers--including Upstate employees Maureen Butler, Amanda Griffin, Lee Livermore, Melissa McElroy-Elve, Nancy Prott, Clare Rauch, and Deborah Reifsnyder –helped distribute back packs and school supplies; shared health and safety information; served food; and helped with set up and clean up.

Mary Nelson and volunteers

Upstate employee Mary Nelson and several youth day volunteers enjoy the music of the BlackLites, who performed at the Youth Day Barbeque.

Nelson's barbeque is an annual event that takes year-round preparation; and it's just part of her extraordinary service to the Syracuse community. In 2009, Nelson  opened a youth center on South Salina St. near the site of the barbeque. The center is open six-days-a-week and is staffed by volunteers. Mary is there on evenings and Saturdays, after her day job at Upstate Radiology.

Volunteer distributes backpacks

Volunteer Ron Smith of the Elks Club 1104 passes out backpacks to young students at the Mary Nelson‘s Youth Day Barbeque. The Elks Club and People‘s AME Zion Church were among the community groups who volunteered at the youth day barbeque.