Youth events on tap for Suffolk’s annual NNO 

Published 3:14 pm Friday, June 9, 2023

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By James W. Robinson

and Jeff Moore

Staff writers

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As National Night Out Suffolk Obici readies for its 10th anniversary event, organizers are focusing on youth this year.

Three prize-winning competitions have been put together for those 18 years old and younger who live or attend school in Suffolk as the Aug. 1 event approaches.

“In celebration of 10 years of NNO Suffolk Obici, we are focusing on the youth of Suffolk and introducing three competitions–a talent show, an essay contest and the Good Citizen Award,” said Catherine Fisk of Kalamoo Community Outreach, who is partnering with NNO Suffolk Obici for the event. “We want to celebrate Suffolk’s young people by giving them the opportunity to share their gifts and talents and to recognize those individuals who place an importance on helping their community.” 

All events are free to the public, including games and food, Kalamoo CEO and founder Cusi Hamlin said, noting it will be jam-packed with exciting activities. 

“This year’s event will also feature the Sentara Obici Hospital’s Health Fair, which will provide free testing and education,” Cusi Hamlin said. “The Suffolk Public Schools’ Back-to-School event will have multiple departments, such as information for parents, present.”

Hamlin said they also are inviting private schools and homeschooling organizations to be a part of this special evening.

Participants can look forward to an array of fun activities, including bounce houses, a foam machine, Newport News Shipbuilding’s Mobile experience trailer, and STEM activities for all ages, committee member Rick Hamlin of Kalamoo added.

Fisk said the NNO contests are open to all youth who reside or attend school in Suffolk. Participants may attend public or private school or be homeschooled.

“For the Good Citizen Award, any person can nominate a youth, up to 18 years of age-12th grade, who exemplifies the characteristics of a good citizen,” she said. “The essay contest is open to those entering second grade and up. Those interested in participating in the talent show must submit their proposed piece online.”

Those selected for the competition will be notified and invited to participate on the main stage during the NNO event at King’s Fork High School by Tuesday, July 25, Fisk explained. Winners of the other contests will be notified on Tuesday, July 25.

“Kalamoo Community Outreach has assembled three committees to evaluate the online entries,” she said. “A panel of judges will determine the winners of the talent show the night of the event.”

All entries must be received by Sunday, July 16. Each contest has specific rules and instructions, and participants must complete an entry form online, Fisk said. These can be found online at

She said winners of all three competitions will be recognized at the NNO Suffolk Obici event.  Mayor Mike Duman will be presenting the awards.

“Suffolk is full of people with a passion for seeing our community flourish,” said Kalamoo Vice President Brittany Hamlin. “We have the potential for great things right here.”

Fisk said they are excited to celebrate the 10th anniversary of NNO Suffolk Obici, from its modest beginnings to the expansive level it is now. 

“As we honor the past, we are looking towards and forward to the future,” she said. “As we witness the rapidly expanding growth of this particular section of Suffolk with businesses entering the area and the continuation of newly constructed homes, we believe that in the coming years the event will also flourish.”

Hamlin said the event has seen a lot of progress through the years.

“After our first community-wide event in 2013, Hillpoint Farms, Applewood Farms, and Burnett’s Mill were considering cutting back or canceling their individual events due to a pressing need for volunteers,” she said. “At the same time, Sentara Obici Hospital was seeking better ways to engage with the local community, so Diana Klink, the NNO Chairperson in Suffolk, listened to everyone’s concerns and suggested the groups join forces to organize a combined community event. Since then, we have not looked back.”

Today, she said it has grown into a solid core team of 25-plus people and organizations, with more than 200 organizations and businesses participating and supporting the event, including throughout the year in preparation to make the event a success.

Kalamoo member Rick Hamlin, who is Cusi’s spouse, said what gives them the greatest satisfaction is that the city can come together to put on a completely free event for the community. 

“One where everyone can interact with first responders in a positive way and have a great time,” he said. “We think it goes a long way in building relationships and breaking down social barriers that can make our communities isolated.”

Fisk said they hope the evening fosters positive relationships with local first responders — police, fire and emergency medical technicians.

Rick Hamlin added that the community is growing quickly, making events such as these important. 

“They help us to stay connected, to maintain that friendly, small town feel, even though we are on the verge of passing the 100,000 population level,” he said.

Anyone with questions or needing more information or or would like to volunteer should contact Kalamoo at 757-263-0406.