By Katie Demeria
According to the planning committee, this year's Warren Memorial Hospital Health and Wellness Expo will be bigger than ever before.
Saturday's 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. event at Warren County High School will not only include a slew of free and discounted health screenings, it will also feature several new and returning safety exhibits from the Warren County Sheriff's Office.
Deputy Larry Funk runs the office's Drug Abuse Resistance Education Program. He has been working with Warren Memorial Hospital on the expo for 26 years.
"This has quite a history," Funk said. "It's such a pleasure to work with the folks at the hospital."
The Sheriff's Office will have several tables set up to provide information on various types of safety areas aimed at educating children and teens, including drug, traffic and stranger safety.
Attendees will have the opportunity to get free helmets to encourage use when riding bicycles and scooters -- both of which will also be included as prizes in a drawing.
Funk said the Sheriff's Office will also bring its Incident Response Vehicle, an armored vehicle and a distracted driving vehicle that simulates how using cell phones and other activities can impact driving ability.
For the first time this year, Funk said attendees can also take advantage of a rollover demo -- a vehicle has been set up to simulate what it is like being in a car without a seatbelt as the car rolls over.
"I've had people come back to me over the years and they'll say, you know I got that information at the wellness expo two years ago," he said. "It's kind of like a testimonial, and it makes you feel good that something you had a small part in was able to help someone."
Kim Shirley, Director of Warren Memorial Hospital's Emergency Department and Women's Care Center, has been the event's chairwoman for the past four years.
She said educating children about the healthy ways in which they should live their lives is an important aspect of the expo. Her favorite activity is the children's farmers market.
"They can pick fruits out, and they can plant seeds and learn what a garden is all about," Shirley said. "It's all about nutrition, getting them started young. It's so important that they see something grow."
The event will also feature a petting zoo aimed at teaching children how to handle stress, Shirley said, which is progressively becoming a serious health issue for many.
"Kids learn how to de-stress by the method of pet therapy," Shirley said. "You can watch the children, it's as though they immediately relax when they're around the animals."
Health screenings are also an important aspect of the expo, she said. This year they will offer a cholesterol screening for a low fee, as well as free oxygen screenings, Vitamin D tests, and foot and ankle screenings, among others.
"Getting to know what is in your community and what's available if you have health issues is so important," Shirley said. "There are so many people that come out because of poor health care and not usually being able to afford getting lab work done."
"It's a lot of fun," she continued. "More vendors than I have ever seen before are coming out this year. I hope to see the community come out to support it."
Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org