Organizers of the annual Stokes Stoked youth rally in Walnut Cove are expecting the event to continue to grow this year.
Leslie Bray-Brewer, who resurrected the event last year, said Saturday’s rally is intended to provide students returning to school a fun evening to focus on their faith and find fellowship for the coming school year.
“Last year we had about 500 people come over the course of the evening,” said Brewer. “It is going to be much bigger this year. I have churches from all over the county that did not know about it last year call about wanting to get involved. So far we have 25 churches actively on board, either through participating in song/dance/Bible verse quotation or simply through promised attendance. There are at least 20 others we have contacted who may yet come through.”
The event will be held in Walnut Cove’s Lion’s Park form 5 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. on Saturday and offers free food, Bibles, T-shirts, and Christian entertainment.
“Everything is free, all night long,” said Brewer. “We are going to have 400 hot dogs from 5 p.m. until 6 p.m. Everyone will get a hot dog, chips a drink and a desert, but when they are gone, they are gone.”
This year the event will feature keynote speaker Rev. Shannon Jessup of Second New Bethel Baptist Church in Winston-Salem.
“He travels in ministry as an evangelist to youth and has even been known to throw a little ‘old-school rap’ into his sermons,” said Brewer. “He has run youth revivals at various churches in Walnut Cove in previous years. He will be bringing his church’s youth praise team and youth praise dance team to Stokes Stoked.”
Other entertainment will include youth choirs, praise dancing, and testimonials.
“But not every kid sings or dances,” said Brewer, “so this year we are also going to offer the opportunity for kids to come up and take the mike and quite their favorite Bible verse and simply tell what it means to them. We are also going to have testimonials from kids who have had miracles happen to them, and give them a chance to talk about their experiences.”
Brewer said all of the entertainment, except for the keynote speaker, will be provided by youth from elementary school up to college age.
“We will also have the United In Christ youth choir singing an old, familiar song, ‘How Great is Our God,’” she said. “If a kid has never practiced with us but they want to come up and help sing that then the choir would love to have them.”
She said the theme for this year’s Stokes Stoked is “God of the City,” a theme which will be highlighted with an event where participants present a ceremonial key to the city to God. There will also be a pastor on hand all night to provide private prayer if any attendees wish it.
The idea of Stokes Stoked, an event to unite young people with faith messages before the school year gets underway, was originally the brainchild of Anita Burroughs Mabe in 2008.
“She always had a heart to reach out to the community,” said Brewer. “When her children were at South Stokes she wanted to do something to untie young people every year before they went back to school and provide them with fellowship opportunities so that when they entered school they would stand strong.”
Mabe continued the celebration in 2009, but succumbed to cancer at age 46 in 2010.
“I knew then, in 2010 that we were supposed to keep this going,” said Brewer. “It was her dream. It stayed in my mind. I have had four years of it nudging at me that I had to carry on what she started and this spring I finally said lets do it.
“This event is all about inspiring positive thinking and community awareness as kids move into the school year,” added Brewer. “We want to build a bridge between kids of all races and all denominations of churches. We want the kids to be able to fellowship and lift each other up beyond the walls of churches.”
The event is being sponsored by churches from throughout the county.
“I also want to acknowledge all of the local businesses and people who have reached out and jumped in to say let me donate to this,” added Brewer. “That is what it is all about: uniting the community.”
Community sponsors include: Hanesbrands Inc., Moxley Production Services, Hartman Farms, Mitchells Meat Processing Company, Walnut Ridge Assisted Living, Artist’s Way, Burroughs Funeral Home and Lions Park.
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.