When Dywanna Medina arrived early at NorthShore Health Centers’ Lake Station office for her prenatal appointment on Tuesday, a pleasant surprise greeted her and her children in the parking lot.
Bounce houses. Face painting. Backpacks full of school supplies. Chair massages. Community service info booths. Video games. And especially welcome in the late-morning heat— shaved ice cones… all for free!
“It’s nice,” Medina said, sitting under the tent shade while her kids had their faces painted. "They have a lot of useful information, and it's fun for the kids."
The activities were all part of NorthShore Health Centers’ 5th Annual Patient Appreciation Health & Fun Fair, held every year in conjunction with National Health Center Week.
"It's a way to honor our patients, honor the community, and let them know that we're here for them," said Tricia Hall, Director of Marketing and Patient Relations for NorthShore Health Centers.
Half an hour before kickoff, families were already lined up along the parking lot to take advantage of the free school backpacks and other goodies, like free RailCats tickets and blood pressure testing.
“It's our way of giving back,” said Gervay Dickerson, Lead Event Coordinator for NorthShore Health Centers. “It's also our way of reminding the community about health screenings."
In addition to the activities for children, a tent contained tables full of useful information and representatives from NorthShore’s Family Services, NEO New Vistas High School & Adult Education, Meals on Wheels, Northwest Indiana Community Action Corporation, Early Oral Healthcare Coalition, Caregiver Homes, Center for Pain Control, and Indiana Wesleyan University.
The range of ages and needs represented in the information provided impressed attendee Raymond Guzman of Portage.
"It was very good for me to know that we have that kind of integrated, multi-racial system here,” Guzman said. “I do like that."
Originally intending just to have his glasses prescription filled, the happy grandfather ended up leaving with relaxed shoulders thanks to his free massage, a cool cone of shaved ice, and a wealth of school supplies and useful information for his family.
"I was very happy to be here," he said.
A new service offered this year were car seat checks. Organized by Jessica Ramsey, Pathways Program Manager for NorthShore Health Centers, the goal was to raise awareness about common car seat safety issues.
“There has been an increase in car accidents where children were not buckled correctly and caused further injury,” Ramsey explained. “We wanted to make it more known to the community."
Ramsey and her team weighed and measured young car seat riders, then compared them to the specifications for their current device. They also checked to make sure the seats were not expired and verified that they were installed and oriented properly.
“I love being hands on. All of my staff does as well," she said. "We love doing these events to help educate the community." Patients who were not able to get their car seats can call to schedule an appointment for a check at anyone of the NorthShore locations.
For Gervay Dickerson, organizing these events is all about the space she is able to create for families. She recalled one year seeing a father proudly procure pizza for his whole family and set up an impromptu picnic in the grass.
"To see those moments where families actually get to spend time together— it makes it all worth it," Dickerson said.
To find out more about NorthShore Health Centers’ locations, services, and future community events, visit their website at www.northshorehealth.org. To learn about future events, visit https://www.northshorehealth.org/events/.