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posted: 7/11/2012 4:57 PM

Round Lake Back to School festival returns, offers free physicals

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By Taylor Goldenstein
tgoldenstein@dailyherald.com

Mano a Mano Family Resource Center's community festival had always featured fun and games until Executive Director Carolina Duque got some upsetting news.

When Duque heard from Round Lake Area Unit District 116 officials that some students were being sent home the first week of school because they had not received physical examinations, she knew her group's festival theme needed to be health.

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"We realized many people were coming, not so much for the games or entertainment, but mostly for the services that were provided outside -- the health screenings, the health education," Duque said.

Three years later, the Back to School Festival continues to grow and serves 1,500 to 2,000 people on average. Last year, 80 physical exams, 75 eye exams and 35 dental exams were administered at the event.

This year's festival is set for Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Round Lake High School, 800 High School Drive. The free event is hosted by Mano a Mano in partnership with the Round Lake Area B.E.S.T, or Bringing Everyone's Strengths Together, organization.

There will be health screenings and school physicals offered for District 116 students and health education from a variety of sponsors, including the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, Intervention Arms Medical Center, Lake County Health Department and Sears Optical.

School physicals will be conducted between 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and are on a first-come, first-served basis. Only students from prekindergarten to kindergarten and in sixth and ninth grades are required by the district to undergo examinations. Screenings will also be available for parents.

There will be a limited number of school supplies and backpacks to give away.

In addition to the information and examinations, there will be games, entertainment and food for purchase. New this year will be free Zumba exercise classes.

While school registration has been offered in the past -- 213 registrations were completed last year -- the festival will not offer this service again. Duque said this became burdensome for school officials, and, regardless, they wanted to encourage parents to register early.

Funds raised at the festival benefit Mano a Mano programs, such as the employment connection, health education and child care.

Proceeds will also fund B.E.S.T's community empowerment grants, which are small grants given to groups or individuals that produce activities, events or programs that enrich the lives of community members. The group receives about half of its funding from the festival on an annual basis.

"I think it's the right thing to do to bring these resources to our children and our families," Duque said. "I hope many people come out ... and that we can perform a lot of physicals. That's the whole idea of the event -- that we help as many children as possible."

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