NEW TAMPA — Free is usually not a word associated with a fairly new film, especially one that received high marks by the movie industry and has tugged at the hearts of millions of moviegoers, young and old.
But that is exactly what will take place Sunday on the soccer field at Benito Middle School, 10101 Cross Creek Blvd.
Outreach Assisting Students in Schools will present Sunset at the OASIS, a complimentary family movie night featuring the popular “Dolphin Tale,” a true story about Winter the dolphin who, unlike any other known marine mammal of her kind, lives life with a prosthetic tail. Her original tail required amputation after being severely damaged when she became entangled in a rope attached to a crab trap off the Florida coast.
The carnival-like movie night also will include games, food for sale and a visit from Winter’s caretakers from her home at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, who will show and answer questions about the dolphin’s famous tail.
The event will unfold at 4:30 p.m. and the movie presentation will begin at 5:45 p.m. Children younger than 16 must be accompanied by an adult.
All that is asked of attendees is that they bring either a new or gently used clothing item or make a monetary donation to OASIS, a volunteer-driven nonprofit organization that provides clothes and other basic necessities to needy students in Hillsborough County public schools.
That’s because the bigger picture in all of this involves another real-life scenario. Close to 60 percent of students in these schools live in poverty, according to Ginger Bean, OASIS Network of New Tampa executive director.
That equates to more than 114,000 youngsters, many who come to school in ill-fitting and badly worn clothing, shoes that are too small, and without personal hygiene necessities in their homes.
To help counter the crisis, OASIS volunteers collect, sort and channel specific items of need from their undisclosed sites in New Tampa and South Tampa to youngsters by way of social workers assigned to each of the 240 schools the organization serves.
The OASIS location in East Tampa is not a collection site but does store and provide provisions for youngsters attending schools nearby.
“Being dressed appropriately helps their self-esteem, behavior and even attendance and academic progress,” said social worker Harriet Bennett, who serves students at the North Tampa Alternative School and frequently picks up items from the New Tampa facility.
The sites stock infant through adult clothing; sizes for both males and females are needed as some schools have day care centers, Bean noted.
Cash contributions are used to purchase school uniforms, socks and underwear, shoes and toiletries.
“We have wonderful volunteers who make it all happen,” said Bean, noting OASIS receives no government funding.
Hunter’s Green resident Allen Guy is among them. He helps transport clothing and bulk orders of toiletries to the New Tampa location.
“This is such a worthwhile, grassroots organization and the school system really appreciates what OASIS does for the needy children in the county,” Guy said.
Donna Linsky, a Tampa Palms resident, has been an OASIS volunteer for about 10 years. She learned of the opportunity through the Tampa Palms Women’s Club, of which she is a member.
“I am still amazed at how, through efficiency and frugality, such a small organization manages each year to help thousands of needy children in Hillsborough County,” said Linsky, noting that any of the clothing items not suitable for students are sold to a recycler for cash which, in turn, is used to buy school uniforms and toiletries.
“Hardly anything that comes to OASIS goes to waste,” she said.
Former OASIS chairman of the board Leslie Farrell calls it a “wonderful charity.”
“It really helps the children, many of whom wouldn’t attend school otherwise,” she said.
OASIS drop-off bins are located throughout the county.
Visit www.oasis-network.org or call (813) 975-8179 for more information.
Joyce McKenzie can be reached at email@example.com.