Childhood Wellness makes debut as part of health fair

Saturday’s health fair isn’t just for adults. This year, the youngsters are getting their foot in the door with the Early Childhood Wellness Fair from 7:30 a.m.-1 p.m. It’s includes childcare, complete with healthy snacks and activities to keep youngsters engaged while parents see all the Rotary Health Fair has to offer; a resource booth with local agencies providing information and answering questions; and three presentations:

• 9:30 a.m.: Social and emotional development of young children;

• 10:45 a.m.: Nutrition for young kids: “How to get the junk out of your kitchen;”

• Noon: Language and literacy resources.

Plans for including youngsters in the health fair began a year ago when some parents suggested to Jenny Martin, coordinator for Best Beginnings Homer, that local agencies create a collaborative event.

“We talked about mutual goals and decided it would be great to provide resources and information to parents about what the needs are for young children,” said Martin. 

They gave the idea a test drive at Paul Banks Elementary School in February. That success inspired the next step, contacting the Rotary Health Fair coordinator, Sharon Minsch, and asking about becoming part of that annual, popular event.

“In April we talked to Sharon Minsch and she was totally receptive, very wonderful and open to the idea,’ said Martin.

For Minsch, including an early childhood wellness fair with the Rotary Health Fair makes perfect sense.

“We get healthier, better informed people the younger we start them learning about health and wellness and how to take care of themselves,” said Minsch. 

Looking at the list of supporting organizations, Minsch also recognized it as a perfect fit.

“Most of them have been partners as exhibitors (of the Rotary Health Fair),” said Minsch. “What’s new is this grouping together, coming up with a focus and doing more than just a one-shot event.”

The Early Childhood Wellness Fair includes the collaborative efforts of Best Beginnings Homer, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Sprout Family Services, RurAL CAP Homer Head Start, Homer Public Library, South Peninsula Hospital Pediatric Clinic and Candy Exchange, Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies, Thread, Kachemak Kids Early Learning, Girassol Child Care and Children’s Art Classes and South Peninsula Behavioral Health Services.

“They’re really making strides to get out, get networking with each other, making sure people know what resources are available in the community,” said Minsch. “They’re doing a good job, setting a good example of how partnerships can expand services and information.”

Shere Baechler, special services teacher at Paul Banks Elementary School, is organizing childcare in Room B103.

“They have a classroom set up, Sprout is donating toys and there are some quality people who are going to be there,” said Martin of the childcare available “in case parents are going to the presentations or getting their blood drawn or just want to walk around the fair and the kids don’t want to. They can feel safe leaving their child in the room with these lovely ladies and some healthy snacks.” 

Sally Burns, another Paul Banks special services teacher, is in charge of organizing the three presentations to be given in Room B108.

The information booth will be grouped together to the left of the stage in the Homer High School commons. 

“Because of this, we’ve got some people at the health fair that normally aren’t there,” said Martin of involving groups like the Homer Public Library and the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies. “The fair is more than just getting blood drawn and checking your eyes and ears. It’s language, literacy, getting outdoors. It’s the whole wellness picture and all the things you can do with your kids.”

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at