Hundreds of children, parents and volunteers showed up in full force for an evening of fun and free activities at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Cleveland’s annual health fair.
Britt DeBusk, Tucker Unit director, said several changes were made to this year’s event.
“We always do just the health fair part of it. This is my first year doing it as the unit director and I didn’t want to do just the booths,” DeBusk said. “Luckily, as we were planning it, Lee Seals called us and wanted us to partner up with [Omega Center International].”
Debbie Bowman of Tender Care also joined the ranks.
“We teamed up with both of them and this is what we got for the first year,” DeBusk said. “We plan to build off it every year.”
Activities filled every nook and cranny of the Tucker Unit’s property on 3rd Street. Children singing karaoke over booming music could be heard from the unit’s entrance. Free haircuts were given to anyone interested in waiting in line. Blue tickets received upon entering could be traded for a snack bag.
Katrina Payne, Boys and Girls Clubs of Cleveland parent coordinator, said it is usually difficult to provide food for the events. She said providing food tends to attract a higher number of parents.
“We try to have events going on for families when the parents are getting off work, but oftentimes that is dinner time,” Payne said. “I know that is something I’ve run into a problem with. The grant we are able to do a lot of family activities with does not allow us to buy food.”
DeBusk said OCI was instrumental in providing the 500 snack bags.
“OCI has helped us out tremendously with us not being able to purchase food with our grants,” DeBusk said. “I told them one of the things we have a problem with is providing food and they said, ‘Done.’”
Each white paper bag held a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with chips and the option of either a fruit cup or a granola bar.
Mollie Brandon, OCI volunteer, said separate bags were made with only jelly sandwiches for kids with peanut allergies.
Lee Seals, OCI outreach coordinator, explained how helping out the club went hand-in-hand with the center’s mission.
“We wanted to be more involved in the community through service. We wanted to actually be expressing what we believe in a very physical, tangible way,” Seals said.
“We wanted to do something where we are actually giving of ourselves and going to people where they are instead of having them come to us.”
Seals said, “We provided the food drinks, a lot of the face paint, finger nail polish and people cutting hair. … We’ve had a great, great miraculous turnout. This is amazing and the kids love and we love it”
Payne and DeBusk estimated more than 100 volunteers were present in addition to the 50 staff members on hand at the event. Volunteers and staff helped coordinate the wiffle ball game, the petting zoo, fingernail painting, face painting and karaoke. Additional fun included inflatable obstacle courses, martial arts demonstrations and the opportunity to use a Bradley County Fire and Rescue truck hose.
Robert Goss of the Akido Martial Arts School of Cleveland demonstrated basic to black-belt moves for a rapt audience.
“We were invited by the Boys and Girls Club up there to put on a demonstration for martial arts awareness and bullying,” Goss said. “Quite a few of the workers came in and said the kids were loving what we did and they were excited. They told us if the kids were not interested, they would not have stuck around.”
Payne explained the health fair’s main focus is still about providing information on healthy lifestyles for children.
“Today is a lot about being healthy for the kids,” Payne said. “There are a lot of health fair booths, but there is also exercise in the form of fun like the inflatables.”
Added DeBusk, “And they don’t even realize they are doing anything healthy for themselves.”
He said there were still additions he would like to see in future years.
“I know I would like to get dental checks and health checks possibly with the health department. It is something we just have to sit down and see what we can do,” DeBusk said. “I mean, it always can be better. It is organized, but it is organized chaos, but I’m OK with that because everyone is having a good time.”
According to DeBusk, the club reaches about 2500 to 2700 children a year.
“If we could get that number up to 5,000 then that would be great. To get the Boys and Girls Club name out and let the community know what we do so we can help the kids who need us the most,” DeBusk said. “We want to provide children with healthy lifestyles, academic success and good character and citizenship. That is what we preach everyday in the programs we run and everything we do.”