Paddock Mall to host annual Back to School Fest with WWE superstar


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Titus O’Neil/WWE/Getty Images

Paddock Mall will host its annual Back to School Fest Saturday, Aug. 8 from 8 a.m. to noon at Paddock Mall, 3100 SW College Rd. This year, in partnership with Thaddeus Bullard a.k.a. WWE Superstar Titus O’Neil and the Bullard Family Foundation, the event will include a special backpack and school supply giveaway benefiting local families with K-12 students attending Marion County Public Schools in 2020-2021. This event is free and open to the public.

To pre-register for a free backpack, please visit Registration will also be available on the day of the event from 8 to 11 a.m. inside Paddock Mall in front of Macy’s. Families who pre-register have the option to pick up their child’s backpack inside the mall, outside the mall in a drive-thru, or have it delivered directly to their child’s school the first week of classes.

At the event, AdventHealth Ocala will be providing temperature checks and hand sanitizer to all guests entering the event space, as well as those picking up backpacks and school supplies. Masks will also be required for guests in attendance at the event.

O’Neil will be joined by Joe Johnson, President, and CEO of AdventHealth Ocala, in distributing backpacks. In addition to the backpack and school supply giveaway, the event will also include live entertainment, vendors, family-friendly activities, and more in a safe, socially distanced environment.

“We are proud to partner with such amazing foundations and members of the community to help give back to Marion County families this year,” said Ashley Wheeler-Gerds, General Manager, Paddock Mall, and Gaitway Plaza. “After working closely with the Public Education Foundation of Marion County and Marion County Public Schools, I knew this donation was much needed to create a successful path for local families and students. We are also grateful to work with the Bullard Family Foundation, as they have paved the way for this event with their back to school and community give events in the Tampa area.”

For the past three years, the Bullard Family Foundation has given away backpacks and school supplies to students in the greatest needs schools in Hillsborough and Pasco counties.

“We are excited to partner with our friends at Paddock Mall to offer the Back to School Fest as an extension of the work that our Bullard Family Foundation does in the Tampa Bay area,” said Thaddeus Bullard. “It complements the work of our Foundation in providing children with resources to help them build their futures. We need to support our youth now more than ever so that they can go to school without worrying about where their supplies are coming from and focus on the most important thing, which is learning.”

In addition to the Bullard Family Foundation, this event would not be possible with the support of our local partners and sponsors AdventHealth Ocala, Chick-fil-A Paddock Mall, Grandview Clydesdales, Ocala Electric Utility, Ocala Gazette, Public Education Foundation of Marion County, and REVO Church.

“It is paramount that we support our community in any way that we can at this time,” said Joe Johnson, President, and CEO of AdventHealth Ocala. “COVID-19 has had an extraordinary impact on many families and has created an additional barrier for so many already in need. We are excited to provide these backpacks and services with our partners to ensure Marion County children and their families are prepared for school, whether it be online or in-person.”

“I am grateful to the Paddock Mall for their support of our students,” said Judi Zanetti, Executive Director, Public Education Foundation of Marion County. “Every school year, providing supplies is important, however, this year, with many parents out of work due to COVID-19, the need is even greater. It is a blessing to our local families that great community partners are there to help support them.”

During this event, mall personnel said that their already rigorous disinfectant and cleaning practices will continue, many times per day, including periodically disinfecting areas most susceptible to the spread of germs. Additionally, alcohol-based hand sanitizers are located in high-traffic areas and walkways for public use.

For more information, please call 352-237-1223.

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