About 3,000 people from across South Los Angeles celebrated this year’s Back2School Community Health + Resource Fair, Walk4Health and Backpack Giveaway, held for the first time at Magic Johnson Park in Willowbrook.
Families from across South Los Angeles enjoyed free food, beverages and live music, while also benefiting from free health and dental screenings, as well as a range of educational and wellness resources.
After participating in a two-mile Walk4Health that looped through the park, they enjoyed freshly made tacos, hot dogs and corn on the cob, and also got food from a food bank and a farmer’s market. Young and old alike enjoyed fitness dancing and other physical activities. Some even got free professional haircuts and a manicure. The children particularly enjoyed the Fun Zone, which had arts and crafts, face painting, pony rides, a petting zoo, a bounce house a gaming station, and other fun activities.
The festive day ended with a backpack giveaway. More than 2,200 children received free backpacks loaded with pencils, notebooks, and other necessities for the new school year.
“This event is very important to me because it gives members of our community a chance to enjoy a beautiful day with family, friends and neighbors while learning about all the great resources available right in their neighborhoods,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who sponsored the event with the Southside Coalition of Community Health Centers, Special Needs Network (SNN), St. John’s Well Child and Family Center, New Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist Church, MLK Center for Trauma Prevention, and the Los Angeles County Departments of Mental Health and Parks and Recreation.
“We began Back 2 School to provide underserved children and youth with the tools essential for school success,” said Areva Martin, president and co-founder SNN, which provided 1,500 of the free backpacks through donations from sponsors. “Today, we address not only academic needs, but health, wellness, and wellbeing as well.”
“The Southside Coalition of Community Health Centers was pleased to partner with the Office of Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and the Special Needs Network,” Southside Coalition Executive Director Andrea Williams said. “Our Health Centers were happy to serve the community and be part of this event.”
Health Net and The Olsen Company sponsored a significant portion of the cost of the backpacks, food, and activities. Other contributors included Blue Shield of California and the California Community Foundation. In all, more than 100 vendors provided families with medical, dental, developmental, and mental health screenings, a pro bono legal clinic, educational workshops to improve overall health and wellness, and other resources.
The Los Angeles County Departments of Public Health and Mental Health had a Wellness Pavilion highlighting the County’s Trauma Prevention Initiative. Their outreach teams were available to educate the community about mental health, wellbeing, and where to seek treatment.
“I am so proud of our ongoing collaboration to bring new and better resources to this vital community,” DMH Director Dr. Jonathan E. Sherin said. “Our partnership with the LA County Department of Public Health on the Wellbeing Pavilion will help foster meaningful connections for years to come. Take care of yourself, reach out when you need help, and find help for others. Supporting mental health and wellbeing is a community effort.”