Alabaster celebrates in King’s memory

Alabaster Mayor Marty Handlon competes in a basketball game against children from Kids First and members of the THS basketball team during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Alabaster’s Kids First Awareness Community Center drew a record crowd for the center’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration at the Shelby County Instructional Services Center on Jan. 21.

This year marked the third straight for the annual community celebration, which featured a cookout, outdoor games, a health and wellness fair and a day filled with basketball and dancing in the Instructional Services Center’s gym. The celebration culminated with a basketball game pitting Alabaster Mayor Marty Handlon and several Alabaster firefighters against Kids First attendees and members of the Thompson High School basketball team.

“Today has been really good,” Handlon said a few minutes before she took the court. “I love getting the chance to come out and talk with everyone.”

The Lovelady Center in Birmingham bused kids from its child care program to take part in the activities, and several volunteers from the University of Montevallo and the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority helped throughout the day.

“This is the largest crowd we’ve ever had,” Kids First Executive Director Cindy Hawkins said as more than 100 children and adults packed the gym and the SCISC parking lot. “I’ve had a lot of help today. It’s great to see everyone come out and support this.”

Hawkins said Kids First hosts the community festival each year to spread King’s message of togetherness and community.

“It’s about unifying our community, and that’s what we did today,” Hawkins said. “We can come together and enjoy today, and then we can go home and be united as a city.”