Woody Adams could have decided to give up this year.

Tragedy struck the Adams family in February when a fire at the family home at 13 Jacques Ave. claimed the lives of Adams’ father, Woodrow Adams Sr., his grandmother, Edna Mae Williams, and his uncle, Gerald “Jerry” Prince.

“In the wake of losing three loved ones, this year I could have easily fell into depression, I could have tapped out, I could have said I’m not going to do anything, I could have been in my feelings and really got lost in the situation that we had at hand,” Adams said Saturday. “But I decided and made up in my mind to use the loss of my loved ones as motivation, as a tool to continue to push me to be great.”

With that motivation, Adams set out to fill the Fuller Family Park on Saturday for his fifth annual back-to-school event. The event gives families a chance to have fun before school starts and provides free backpacks and haircuts.

For years, Adams has been organizing events like this in Worcester, trying to give back to the community and offer kids ways to stay out of trouble. In the wake of all that’s happened this year, Saturday’s event seemed like a good way to honor his loved ones, Adams said.

“I just want to carry out their legacies and continue to be great in their honor,” Adams said. “This one is super special.”

Shortly after the event started at noon, hundreds were already packing the park. Kids jumped in inflatable bounce houses as music blasted. A group of Worcester firefighters sprayed a firetruck hose as children smiled and ran through the water.

A group of Worcester police officers mingled with residents. Inviting the police was crucial to Adams, who wanted to help police build relationships with the Main South community.

“We all know the world is going through a tough time right now. We seem to be separated,” he said. “I want to let the kids know to support the police department. Strive to be a police officer and give back to your community versus hating the police.”

Backpacks and school supplies are a draw of the event. Adams said they ended up with more than 1,000 to hand out, filled with school supplies.

“We want to teach the importance of education. We all know reading is important to our youth today,” Adams said. “We want to make sure that they get off on the right foot this year because they’re dealing with a lot, not just with going to school but going back to school after COVID … We want to make sure that they have the necessities they need to be successful.”

The donations fell short of Adams’ goal of 3,000 backpacks. Still, Adams’ optimism shines through.

“We have over 1,000 so we’re blessed,” Adams said. “Next year we’ll reach the goal. We’ll set the bar high.”

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