REED CITY – Reed City Area Public Schools kicked off its sixth year of Family Nights on Thursday with more than 500 people in attendance.

The monthly events offer a free dinner and a variety of educational, fun activities for G.T. Norman Elementary School students, their families and other community members.

“It’s been wonderful,” said Vicky Bowman, Family Night coordinator. “(Today) we had a lot of people from the community who don’t even have kids at the school come for flu shots. Parents are always stopping me in the halls and asking when the next Family Night is. (Parent involvement) leads to academic success.”

Family Nights have drawn an increasing number of attendees and volunteers over the years, Bowman said. The events are supported by grants and donations from area businesses.

Spectrum Health Reed City Hospital partnered with the program last year, and the hospital offered free flu shots and a teddy bear clinic at Thursday’s Family Night. A teddy bear clinic allows children to go through the process of checking in to a doctor’s office and talking to nurses and doctors about health issues in relation to their stuffed animals, so the children will not be intimidated when it’s their turn to go to the doctor’s office.

Also at Thursday’s Family Night, a fire truck and ambulance were on hand for tours, Spectrum gave away free T-shirts, attendees had the chance to win door prizes, children got to take home a free book and games and crafts were set up in the gym.

“(I like) all the games,” said second grader Elizabeth Shinn, who attended Family Nights last year too, with her parents, sisters and friends.

She also enjoyed making decorations for different holidays.

“Family Night is the funnest time at school,” she said.

Visit the photo gallery to see more photos from Thursday's Family Night.