The Hope Town Square will host a festive evening of crafty sugar skulls, piñatas and guitars, as well as traditional Mexican dance, as the Students’ Fund of Hope presents its annual free-will donation Movie Night featuring a showing of the 2017 Disney Pixar film “Coco” at dusk Friday.

Whitney Budd, co-founder of the Students’ Fund of Hope, says this event is “hands down” her favorite of all that the nonprofit organization hosts, simply because it is centered on families and it offers kids an opportunity she didn’t have growing up.

“The whole purpose we started doing movie night is because we wanted to provide opportunities for kids who don’t get to do special things like that so they can still make fun memories with their parents,” Budd says. “That is why we do everything free-will donation because we don’t ever want their financial situation to be an excuse to not be able to experience fun things.”

Friday’s festivities begin at 6 p.m. with a variety of crafts, says Students’ Fund of Hope co-founder Stephanie Long.

“We have some cardboard guitars that the kids can decorate, we are going to have maracas that students can make, and face masks that look like sugar skulls celebrating Dias de los Muertos, which is what the movie is about,” Long says. “We also have temporary tattoo stations, so kids can get a temporary tattoo if they want. And we are also doing free-will donation tacos in a bag.”

Long adds that the majority of the supplies required for the crafts have been donated by community members.

“We are pretty excited about showing ‘Coco,’” Long says. “It has got a lot of fun music and singing. We have a group of Mexican dancers coming in, so they will be doing a traditional Mexican dance at 7:30 p.m. at the bandstand. So that should be neat and something culturally different that you don’t see every day.”

WILLow LeaVes of Hope is donating all the popcorn and the cardboard guitar cutouts are courtesy of Aero Packaging in Greenwood, Budd says.

Also, 812 Photo Booths, a new start-up company in Columbus, is donating their time and services that evening, Budd adds. The company will have a free-standing, hands-free photo booth available throughout the evening.

“It will send the photos they take that evening directly to their phones and share it directly to social media platforms,” Budd says. “We also have All About That Bounce, a family-owned company in Columbus. They are donating their bounce houses and time again.”

Like many others, Long says she is looking forward to seeing everyone at the event and reclaiming a sense of the ordinary in a time that is anything but ordinary.

“Everybody’s been off from COVID for so long and people have been stuck in isolation it has been difficult to interact with students in the community to any degree,” Long says. “So it’s really going to be a fun opportunity for everyone to come together with some normalcy.”

All proceeds from the evening will benefit the Students’ Fund of Hope, which was founded by Budd and Long in 2018.

“The whole reason we started the fund is because I was a kid who really struggled,” Budd says. “We were homeless at times and I don’t have photos or good memories a lot as a kid. So the only thing that sticks out in my mind today as an adult is hard things and trials after trials. I wanted to make sure the kids who come from the same place I come from have an opportunity to do things like this.”

As always, those who attend Friday’s event are asked to bring their own seating, be that lawn chairs, blankets, etc. And, too, keep an eye on the weather, Long says. Though the odds look slim, an extra blanket might be a good idea if temps cool too much.

Budd says she is definitely looking forward to seeing everyone and sharing a relaxing time together as a community.

“It really reminds you of something you would see on the Hallmark station,” Budd says. “It is just such a good, little, wholesome thing done in our little tiny town where everyone gets together on their blankets on the ground and watches a movie at night.”