PALMER— Mat-Su Regional Medical Center’s annual Baby and Children’s Fair saw more than 700 people attend on Saturday.
New parents and experienced families alike had more than 30 tables to browse, ranging from health care providers to educational booths at their disposal, including giveaways, raffles, free hearing and vision screenings, free car seat checks, parenting advice, and educational games for children, all centered on health and safety. The Life Med helicopter even made a landing in the parking lot for photo ops and to hand out information.
According to MSRMC Director of Marketing and Public Relations, Alan Craft, this event was part of the hospital’s year-round effort to work with local groups to promote good health, in this case with family and kids at the heart.
“Each year there are nuances,” Craft said. “Every year that I’ve been here, we’ve been very pleased with the attendance and the response of the people who are here.”
This year’s theme was “Nurturing New Beginnings and Wellness in the Wonder Years.” MSRMC partnered with the Mat-Su Health Foundation and ROCK Mat-Su (Raising Our Children with Kindness), a group of community members “working to promote family resilience and end child maltreatment in the Mat-Su Borough of Alaska,” according to its website.
This the second year ROCK has participated with the Baby and Children’s Fair, and the relatively new group threw a big “community baby shower” at the event, giving out gift bags to new and expecting parents. They gave out about twice as many gift bags as last year, with about 190 new and expecting parents going home with essential items like baby clothes and formula.
“It was probably a little more dynamic than last year because of Raising Our Children with Kindness,” Craft said.
Kurstine Svoboda, Director of Emergency Services for MSRMC and her fellow health advocates dressed themselves in colorful pirate outfits for the fair. With a wooden ship, the “S.S. Spit It Out” in the background, Svoboda and the other safety pirates pointed to several images of candies placed next to common household items. Kids could walk the plank or swab the deck for goodies.
“If we’re going to do something, we’re going to do something fun,” Svoboda said.
Svoboda quizzed children of all ages to see whether they could differentiate between candy and toxic and otherwise hazardous substances, like rat poison or prescription medication. They quizzed numerous kids and explained the dangers of getting into medicine cabinets or under the bathroom sink. They gave out pamphlets for families to quiz each other back home.
“It makes a huge impact and reinforces safe practices in the household,” Svoboda said.
Toddlers and infants are the most at risk for ingesting dangerous materials, especially infants- who have a tendency of inspecting things by shoving them into their mouths. Twenty percent of ER visits are children, according to Svoboda. Prescription medications are prevalent risk for children.
“Sometimes, kids can open bottles just as good as adults,” Svoboda said.
To baby-proof a home, Svoboda suggested to get down on the floor, at a baby’s level, and start searching for hazardous items within reach.
“Do it before you have kids,” Svoboda said.
Svoboda noted that when company is over, they can sometimes unknowingly bring something dangerous if ingested, like medication. Even seasoned parents will forget at times, especially if their kids are grown up, Svoboda said. It’s a matter of building a mindset, she said.
Doug Williams is the Director of Flight Operations for LifeMed, a medevac team that services the whole state. Williams was outside with the pilots who were busy taking photos with families after landing in the parking lot. He said that he wanted more people to know about their services and think about their membership, which cost under $50 a year and covers an entire household.
“Honestly, I encourage anybody and everybody to think about it,” Williams said.
Alaskans on the whole, tend to go on long outings, risking serious injury or getting lost. Getting medevaced isn’t cheap and in some cases, insurance companies will not cover the costs, leaving people with massive bills, according to Williams.
“It’s a necessity,” Williams said. “You just never know up here.”