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Families can get their kids off to a great start to the school year at the 2011 Stop the Violence/Back to School Rally set for Saturday, Aug. 13 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Santa Fe College Gymnasium.

For the 12th straight year the community group People Against Violence Enterprises (PAVE) will be hosting the event, which is expected to draw more than 2,000 people. The event, sponsored by a variety of businesses and community organizations, including primary sponsor Meridian Behavioral Healthcare, Inc., offers musical entertainment, guest speakers with anti-violence messages, a bounce house, an art table and other activities for kids. Meridian will also provide the first 1,200 children attending the fair with free backpacks filled with school supplies.

The purpose of the rally is to give parents and students important tips on preventing violence in their neighborhoods, homes and schools, and to help them prepare for the upcoming school year. This year’s theme is “Who U Reppin’? PEACE!” and the focus will be on preventing gangs and gang-related violence.

Alachua County Public Schools will again be partnering with PAVE this year to hold the district’s annual Back to School Fair in conjunction with the Stop the Violence Rally. District staff will be on hand to provide families attending the event with school bus schedules, calendars, school supply lists and other important back-to-school information.

As part of the Stop the Violence/Back to School Rally, the Leadership Gainesville Alumni Association (LGAA) will be providing backpacks, supplies and clothing to eligible students who have graduated from the local Head Start program. This is the 16th year the LGAA has sponsored the program for Head Start graduates.

Other local agencies will also be on hand to provide vital services and information. For example, the Alachua County Health Department will be offering free school immunizations and information on signing up for low-cost health insurance. Health Department staff members will also be sharing information about the upcoming Flu Mist vaccination program, a community-wide effort to immunize all students against the flu for free while they’re at school.