Grass roots 'Fun Fest' event set to roll again

DACULA - An annual grass-roots carnival in Dacula called "Fun Fest" has doubled its profits every year, raising $6,000 in proceeds last year for Shriners Hospitals for Children, leaders said.

Entering its fifth year, Fun Fest organizers hope to keep the momentum going Saturday.

To prove it, they're expanding the event's timespan. Patrons will have two additional hours Saturday - from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. - to enjoy pony rides, clowns, hay rides and games than in previous years.

You'll find Fun Fest in the parking lot of the Ingles in Dacula.

"We hope to raise more this year," organizer Judy Burke said.

But the event is more than fun and games.

Burke, who originated the festival while president of the Gwinnett Shrine Clubs, said more than 175 children were fingerprinted through the Georgia Child Identification Program last year, making it the program's largest venue.

Burke said Shriners hospitals have been working faithfully to aid Georgia PeachCare in efforts for children with specific health needs.

"This is at no cost to the patients or the taxpayers of Georgia," Burke said. "Hundreds of Georgia kids have been treated and helped at our Shriners hospitals."

Burke and her husband, Richard, were inspired to start Fun Fest through tragedy.

In March 2002, Burke's 1-year-old granddaughter, Leah McCammon, was scalded so badly in her grandparents' bathtub she later died at a Shriners Hospital in Cincinnati.

Burke had left the child alone for only a couple minutes to take a phone call, and in her absence, Leah accidentally turned on water hot enough to cause third-degree burns over most of her body. She died several days later.

But the effort by doctors to keep Leah alive wasn't lost on the Burkes. They've worked to channel funding to the hospitals famed for helping kids with burn and orthopedic needs, raising more than $1.5 million, mostly through golf tournaments.

A plaque at the Cincinnati hospital bears Leah's name, Burke said.

SideBar: If You Go

· What: Fun Fest 2009

· When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday

· Where: Ingles, Dacula (Ga. Highway 324 and Dacula Road)

· For more information: Call organizers at 770-945-4155 or e-mail funfest@gwinnettshrineclub.org.