It’s here again, now in its 14th year, the annual festival continues to provide health checks, school supplies and lots of fun for the family.
It's August and kids are headed back to school, but before the bell rings—Mothers In Action (MIA) along with the Los Angeles Sentinel want to send them back in style. MIA is back with the 14th Annual Back to School: Health & Family Festival (BSHFF) at the L.A. Sports Arena on Saturday, August 25, 10am-3pm.
MIA together with 25th State Senator and then Assemblyman, Rod Wright, created the BSHFF for the youth in the surrounding communities. "We have so many kids without access to healthcare or enough money for supplies," stated Wright. "That need is still there and probably even more necessary now than it was when we started it."
There will be free school supplies and medical exams to children five to 15. The festival will feature a number of booths including health screenings, dental hygiene, free immunizations, uniforms, haircuts and LAUSD mandatory pertussis vaccine, a.k.a. Whooping Cough, at this year’s festival. Many children don't perform well in school due to poor health conditions and lack of healthcare. The annual fair is a direct response to a community in need. Sigma Gamma Rho Inc. (SGRI), along with many other vendors, hopes to fill that need.
“We will be providing all kinds of supplies and hopefully a couple of giveaways,” said Janice Russo of SGRI. “Last year, we gave a lot of necessary supplies—papers, backpacks, pencils, [etc.].
“This year we’re hoping to get more high-tech. We want to provide kids with flash drives in hopes of giving away a notebook.”
Medical groups such as the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services Hubert H. Humphrey Comprehensive Health Center (HHCHC), Cedars-Sinai Medical Center (CSMC) and Explorer One Ambulance and Medical Services (EOAMS) will be at the BSHFF providing health services and information to youth and family.
“[HHCHC] has been participating in [BSHFF] for the past 14 years,” said Marion Thornton White, RN and Nurse Manager for HHCHC. “We bring our mobile unit to the event.
“We provide educational information for the kids as well as their parents. We do blood pressure [and] glucose screenings and cholesterol checks.”
First time participants, CSMC will be on hand providing health info and tips to youth at the festival. Michele Rigsby Paulay, RN and Program Director for the CSMC: Coach For Kids Program, spoke on what services the mobile medical program unit will be providing at BSHFF.
“We are going to be providing free immunizations for children 0-18 years of age,” said Paulay. We will also be providing health education services—dental and nutrition education.”
As one of the only minority-owned ambulance companies in Los Angeles County, EOAMS wants to show their support of the BSHFF.
“We’re coming out there to encourage the kids and show them that they have positive role models that they can look up to,” said Sultan Mohamed, EMS Chief for EOAMS.
They will be doing CPR demonstrations, showing how to assist in certain situations and giving information on medical aid.
"It feels like the first festival," said Brenda Marsh-Mitchell, Co-founder and President of Mothers in Action. "Things have gotten tight—everybody is having a back-to-school festival, but everybody isn’t sharing what they should share.
“It takes all of us to make it work, but people lean on MIA because they’re used to having this festival.
“It’s a little harder this year but we’re going to do it anyway.”
This year promises to be one of the biggest back-to-school giveaways as the country still continues to suffer from a challenged economy. In past years, the festival has drawn well over 60,000 participants and is expecting to have even more this year. Many schools attended the festival in droves to receive information on healthcare, school supplies and an afternoon of fun.
The festival is being sponsored by numerous organizations including: The Bakewell Family Foundation, the Brotherhood Crusade, Radio Free KJLH, 7-Eleven, Walmart SEIU-ULTCW, Gas Company, Metro PCS and many more.
There will also be a host of celebrities present this year lending their support to the festival. In addition, there are an array of co-chairs including Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas, Sen. Curren Price, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, L.A. City Council president Herb Wesson, Councilmembers Jan Perry and Bernard Parks, Assemblyman Isadore Hall, Fabian Wesson, Co-founder Danny J. Bakewell, Sr. and Marsh-Mitchell.
Some of the vendors for BSHFF include the Cochran Firm of California, One Church in Christ, Children’s Dental Center, Black Hypertension Project, Los Angeles Professional Managers, Explorer One Ambulance and Medical Services, Fame Assistance Corp/Body & Soul-Let’s Move, L.A. Sentinel & Watts Times and many others. Crenshaw Barber & Beauty Shop will be back providing free haircuts and hairstyles this year.
Immunization records are critical, so please remember to bring them with you to the festival.
Mothers in Action is a nonprofit 501 (c) (3) organization founded by the late Johnnie Tillman, Lillian Mobley, Nola Carter, Gwen Green, Mary Henry, Danny J. Bakewell Sr. and Brenda Marsh-Mitchell. MIA is a result of the 1992 civil unrest and aims to bring the community together. Made up of mothers, they aim to help the youth, elderly and less fortunate residents of the community.