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updated: 8/6/2014 4:46 PM

About 1,000 kids expected at final Kids 1st Health Fair

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  • Video: Kids 1st Health Fair

  • Gavyn Baker, 11, of Wauconda, receives an immunization Wednesday during the final Kids 1st Health Fair in Waukegan. Organizers are ending the program after 21 years.

       Gavyn Baker, 11, of Wauconda, receives an immunization Wednesday during the final Kids 1st Health Fair in Waukegan. Organizers are ending the program after 21 years.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Steven Navarro, 10, of Park City, has his height checked during a physical at the annual Kids 1st Health Fair Wednesday in Waukegan. Organizers are ending the 21-year-old program, saying the Affordable Care Act has given families more health care choices.

       Steven Navarro, 10, of Park City, has his height checked during a physical at the annual Kids 1st Health Fair Wednesday in Waukegan. Organizers are ending the 21-year-old program, saying the Affordable Care Act has given families more health care choices.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Dentist John Payant checks 5-year-old David Vargas' teeth Wednesday at the Kids 1st Health Fair.

       Dentist John Payant checks 5-year-old David Vargas' teeth Wednesday at the Kids 1st Health Fair.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

 
 

Eleven-year-old Gavyn Baker chewed on the neck of his purple T-shirt and winced as he prepared for a series of four immunizations Wednesday morning.

"I haven't gotten shots in a long time," the Wauconda boy explained.

Gavyn was among the many school-age kids who got physicals, dental exams and other medical services at Waukegan's Juarez Middle School as part of Lake County's final Kids 1st Health Fair.

Organizers are ending the 21-year-old program, saying the Affordable Care Act has given families more health care choices.

"Many more people have access to health care," Lake County Health Department spokeswoman Leslie Piotrowski said.

The event has been sponsored by the health department, the United Way of Lake County and Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, a North Chicago institution.

The fair provided services required by local schools to the county's poorer residents at no cost. About 1,000 children were expected to participate this year.

Waukegan resident Marizol Mercado brought her children Noemi Flores, 10, and Yael Flores, 9, to the fair. She was particularly concerned about their dental health.

"(Cavity) prevention is extremely important," Mercado said through an interpreter.

Gavyn's mom, Emily Baker, brought Gavyn and his 5-year-old brother, Andy, for exams Wednesday.

Baker said she was disappointed the program has been canceled.

"It's convenient, especially if you have more than one kid," she said.

Gavyn's shots weren't so bad. They were done in a matter of seconds, and he laughed off the momentary pain.

"It was better than last time," the incoming Wauconda Middle School sixth-grader said.

The fair entailed more than injections and dental checks. A podiatric team from Rosalind Franklin University offered foot and shoe assessments, and nutritionists told families about eating healthy.

Representatives of local medical providers also were available to talk with parents about getting services under the new health care law.

Additionally, as families left the school, volunteers offered each child a bag filled with granola bars, crackers, peanuts, an apple and other nutritious items.

"These are items that they might not be able to buy at a grocery store," said Northern Illinois Food Bank staffer Jacqui Hebein, whose employer provided the sacks of snacks. "Especially the produce."

Hebein said she hopes some of the nonmedical services offered at the fair will continue in a different form in Lake County.

The rise in juvenile diabetes and allergies and the proliferation of poor communities without grocery stores -- called food deserts -- indicates a continued need for nutrition education.

"It's still really important," said Hebein, of Ingleside.

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