When a boatload of individuals, organizations and agencies team up with a single focus, great things happen – like the second annual Alyeska Best Beginnings Family Fair, held in Fairbanks, Sept. 15, 2012. The Family Fair is an opportunity for parents of children (birth to 8) to visit most – if not all – of the community services and programs available in Fairbanks, including health screenings and low cost immunizations, all under one roof.
It’s a great idea, organized by Fairbanks Families: A Best Beginnings Partnership, in collaboration with Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, Best Beginnings, and a host of partner organizations and volunteers.
“Families that come in for screening learn about what’s available in the community,” explains Cheryl Keepers, who staffs the Fairbanks North Star Borough Early Childhood Development Commission, a member of the Fairbanks Families Partnership. “The screenings sometimes result in a referral, such as for hearing or vision. The fair offers families a good first step. If children learn to clean their teeth in a fun way, they’re more likely to develop it as a lifelong habit.”
This year’s Family Fair had 22 booths, up from the first fair last year. Screenings for growth, BMI, vision, hearing, blood pressure, and dental were conducted – a total of 346 screenings of 92 children – according to event committee chair Audrey Diseth.
Families said they found an average of five new resources, with some families reporting they had found as many as 14 new resources. An overwhelming 98% of those who completed an exit survey said they found the fair helpful or very helpful.
In addition to Alyeska Pipeline, Best Beginnings, and the Fairbanks Families Partnership, the fair was supported by Golden Heart Emergency Physicians, Fairbanks Memorial Hospital/Denali Center, and the FNSB Early Childhood Development Commission. Alaska Health Fair was also involved and helped organize the resource tables. The statewide organization maintains a calendar of scheduled fairs at www.alaskahealthfair.org/calendar.
The Family Fair requires most of a year to organize and coordinate, according to event chair Diseth. “The most challenging part is getting all the volunteers and resource tables, soliciting volunteers, and making sure we have varied resources for the fair,” she said. At this year’s event, 175 volunteers staffed tables and screenings.
The Fairbanks Families Partnership will continue to organize the annual event, with incremental improvements expected every year. As Keepers notes, it’s clearly providing a way for Fairbanks families to connect with and use available resources in an easy, effective, and efficient way.