When Assistant Principal Ed Haukland stepped foot onto the field of his elementary school April 29, he knew he’d be getting dunked underwater.
About 700 students, teachers and Gainesville residents gathered under the blistering sun at Kimball Wiles Elementary School for its annual Family Fun Day. Students dragged parents from the five bounce houses on the school’s outdoor field to the food-vendor fair in the front parking lot — and to the outdoor faculty dunk tank.
Haukland, 48, took his first shift, and to the glee of the students who ran up and pushed a big red button, he was dropped straight into the water.
“We’re all people, right?” Haukland joked after stepping out of the tank, every part of him soaked, from the hat on top of his head to his fake alligator-skin shoes. “We all have fun together.”
The school has thrown the carnival on and off for about a decade as an opportunity to bring families together and raise money for the school’s parent teacher association, said Kelly Goede, a lead member of the association and president-elect for next year.
“It’s an event for kids to come out with their families and have a good time,” she said. “Just to have fun — fundraising and fun.”
Goede, a lead organizer for the carnival, said this year’s event had a special theme: superheroes. Plastic masks depicting The Avengers, Batman and Spider-Man were taped along the hallway between the cafeteria and outdoor courtyard. Wonder Woman banners outlined the check-in and ticket booth on the front parking lot.
The PTA also displayed a life-sized Iron Man replica and Captain America costume in the cafeteria, which kids and families posed with throughout the afternoon. Goede said her friend James Coates, the CEO of local armor manufacturer Phalanx Defense Systems, provided the replicas for the event.
On the other side of the courtyard, Cristina and Sherman Merricks watched their three kids, Ariana, Kayden and Judah, play around one of the event’s obstacle courses.
“He’s a competitive kid,” Cristina said of Kayden as he worked to complete the last stage of a mini obstacle course: throwing balls through five adjacent hoops. “He’s more interested in the prize at the end — anything that can get tickets really quickly.”
Cristina and Sherman, both founders and co-owners of Dynasty CrossFit, said although their children go to Gainesville’s The Rock School, a private Christian school, they came to Wiles Elementary’s event to support the school and their friends in the PTA.
They said they arrived at about 2:30 p.m. and initially planned to stay for only a brief time. But two hours later, 5-year-old Ariana, 8-year-old Kayden and 3-year-old Judah were still hard at play.
“They don’t want to leave — we were only going to stay for a few minutes,” Cristina said. “They love it (here).”
Wiles Elementary’s school resource officer, Philip J. Mauldin, said he goes by “Mauldin” to most of his Alachua County Sheriff’s Office colleagues and fellow deputies.
To the students, however, he’s “Officer PJ.” To some of the fifth graders, he’s even just “PJ.”
In turn, he said, he knows all the kids.
“People ask me how many kids I have, and I say, ‘Well, I have to add my two on and 985,’” he said, referring to the nearly 1,000 students who attend the school.
After more than five years at Wiles Elementary, Mauldin said he views the school and its students as the future.
“A lot of people want to complain about the education system, but it starts right here,” he said. “This is the bread and butter.”
Contact David Hoffman at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter: @hoffdavid123.
Kimball Wiles Elementary School parent-teachers association displayed a life-sized Iron Man replica and Captain America costume in the cafeteria for its superhero-themed Family Fun Day on April 29. The replicas were provided by James Coates, the CEO of local armor manufacturer Phalanx Defense Systems.