Thousands of Syracuse children and their families are ready for the new school year, thanks to receiving back packs and school supplies at the annual Mary Nelson Youth Day Barbeque, held on Saturday in the 8-block area surrounding Beauchamp Library on South Salina St. in Syracuse. Nelson, an Upstate Radiology employee, started the barbeque ten years ago to encourage young people to stay in school. (That year, her nephew was a victim of gun violence. Mary turned her grief into a mission to help Syracuse children.)
Close to 500 volunteers–including Upstate employees Maureen Butler, Amanda Griffin, Lee Livermore, Melissa McElroy-Elve, Nancy Prott, Clare Rauch, and Deborah Reifsnyder –helped distribute back packs and school supplies; shared health and safety information; served food; and helped with set up and clean up.
Nelson’s barbeque is an annual event that takes year-round preparation; and it’s just part of her extraordinary service to the Syracuse community. In 2009, Nelson opened a youth center on South Salina St. near the site of the barbeque. The center is open six-days-a-week and is staffed by volunteers. Mary is there on evenings and Saturdays, after her day job at Upstate Radiology.