Wellness Fair Helps Families Get Back-to-School Ready
Attendees at the event—a partnership between Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and Macedonia Baptist Church—were able to pick up supplies and books, receive health screenings, learn about local resources and enjoy raffle prizes.
By Eunice Oh
After 15 months without activities at the Macedonia Baptist Church, on Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021, the campus was buzzing. White tents had been erected outside and upbeat music was playing as families made their way from table to table.
“To see the smiles on the children’s faces and their engagement was a gift,” says Senior Pastor Rev. Shane B. Scott.
The church’s parking lot had been converted into the inaugural “Back to School, Back to Wellness” family health fair. Staffed by Children’s Hospital Los Angeles clinicians and team members, the event featured stations where kids and families could pick up drawstring bags with school supplies and books from CHLA’s Literally Healing program; check their vital signs through health screenings; participate in art and music therapy; learn first-aid training including CPR; and receive the COVID-19 vaccination.
“At Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, we believe in supporting the complete wellness of everyone in our community,” says Jennifer Baird, PhD, Director of Clinical Services Education and Research. “This fair was the perfect opportunity to share our knowledge outside our hospital’s walls and bring together so many local partners as a one-stop shop to better serve local families.”
An extended partnership
Back in April, Children’s Hospital teamed up with Macedonia Baptist Church on four pop-up clinics to bring the COVID-19 vaccine closer to residents in South Los Angeles. It was at one of those clinics when an idea popped up in Pastor Shane’s mind: What if we continued to bring resources to the neighborhood that would otherwise not be available?
“Places like Watts are often underserved and overlooked, and I felt that wellness services would greatly benefit the community—and indeed that’s what this did,” says Rev. Scott. “Most often it’s the families that are going to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles but this time CHLA came to them, and that was huge.”
Once Dr. Baird heard the idea of a health fair, she and her team quickly mobilized. They reached out to colleagues across the institution, including those in Community Affairs, and invited several local organizations—such as the Autism Doesn’t Define Me Academy, Friendship Foundation and South Way Counseling Center—whose services could be valuable to families. Four months later, the event was a success with more than 200 attendees, plus children of all ages, from babies to teens.
“It was such a nice environment to be a part of because everyone was happy and excited to be there,” says Courtney Porter, MPH, CPHQ, Manager of the Center for Healthy Adolescent Transition at CHLA. “Families really seemed to enjoy receiving information and resources from each station.”
Carrying for the community
At the check-in table, attendees were given a “passport,” and collected stamps as they made their way around the fair and participated in specific activities. The stamps also served as raffle tickets to win toys and games donated by the hospital’s Volunteer Services team. Three lucky winners also took home new bikes and were fitted with kid-appropriate helmets by CHLA’s Injury Prevention Program.
Among the fair’s other offerings were a tent where people could participate in Stop the Bleed training, which teaches techniques to help save a life before someone bleeds out; a table to learn more about Camp CHLA, a week-long internship for high school students interested in a career in health care; and food and treats from local businesses Pucker Up Lemonade and Hippityhop Party Shop.
Children’s Hospital also collaborated with Macedonia Community Development Corporation (CDC) and Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science on the event. For Alex Guerrero, Executive Director of Macedonia CDC, working with CHLA aligns with the corporation’s goal to empower residents in Watts by addressing economic and social disparities.
“Jobs, childcare, food insecurity, safety and health are our top priorities,” says Guerrero, “and we’re happy to partner with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles to bring the types of resources all of God’s children deserve.”
A bright light
Looking ahead, an enduring relationship with Macedonia is something Dr. Baird envisions for the future, as part of Children’s Hospital’s ongoing commitment to the community.
“When speaking with members of the church, it’s clear how much they care about their community and are always thinking about better ways to support it,” says Dr. Baird. “The hope is we can make this event even bigger next year—and the year after.”
“This event really is a team effort, and it was beautiful to see so many people invested in helping others at a time that’s been stressful for all of us,” she adds. “I see it as a bright light to remind us of all the amazing work that we can do when we all work together.”