St. Mary health fair pulls in community

There were vendors or doctors for almost everything from the top of your head to the bottoms of your feet.

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WALLA WALLA - More than 50 vendors displayed their wares and services to hundreds of attendees of the Providence St. Mary Medical Center Health Fair on Saturday.

For Walla Walla Home Medical customer service representative Shonna Canada, it was a chance to show off diabetes shoes, pulse monitors, motorized quad-runner wheelchair and other products.

"I have given away lots of fliers and lots of interests," Canada said. She noted one of the more popular items at her booth was a fire truck nebulizer for children with cystic fibrosis and asthma.

"We had a couple parents say they would probably go get a prescription so they could get one in place," she added.

Others came to offer their services, which included cholesterol screenings, fitness memberships, eye exams and even flu shots in August.

"I thought it was awesome and a good deal," said Penney Wesner, right after getting her flu shot. The Walla Walla woman noted she hadn't planned to come to the event until she read about it.

"I just saw it in the paper and came in," she added.

Hundreds of others did the same. And by 1:30 p.m., the Holy Mocha booth had sold more than 100 Italian sodas. Its success was due, in part, to the fact that no soda vendors were on hand to serve the thirsty crowd. That was because the goal was to provide only healthy foods, which was supposed to mean no candy, event coordinator Tami Miller said.

"I asked them (vendors) not to have candy but they are," Miller said.

Then Miller reluctantly admitted that she too had to resort to less than ideal foods for a health fair when she couldn't find a vendor to come in and serve juices and healthy snacks.

"We are selling hot dogs and Italian sodas," she added.

This was the first time the hospital has had to plan for a community-wide health fair. It the past, Providence St. Mary Medical Center sponsored smaller speciality fairs, including last year's colorectal cancer awareness fair that provided participants with a giant walk-through replica of a colon.

But there were no big colons at Saturday's event. But it did include other providers like Adventist Health and the Walla Walla Clinic.

"It is a community health fair, so the idea is that we would have our partners here," she added.

For the Walla Walla Clinic, the fair was a chance to try something new.

By 2 p.m., 30 people had taken part in the clinic's free cancer screening of skin moles.

"Some people, they don't want to come to the office," dermatologist Francesco D'Alessandro said, pointing out the reluctancy in his patients to make an appointment to have a mole looked at. "But they are here and it is free," he added.

So far that day, all 30 moles screened turned up benign, and all were located on areas that did not require a privacy.

"We have got some (privacy) screens, but so far we haven't had to use any of these," physicians assistant Ken Kirby said.

Seconds latter an elderly woman came up wanting Kirby to look at her mole, and she would need the screen. And he dutifully went to work.

Raffles were also held, games were brought in for kids, bike helmets were given away, along with other freebies like pencils, pens, cups, informational pamphlets and candy.

"It is nice that the hospital, a major health-care provider, is bringing together the community like this," Wellness Director Shareen Hoar of Wheatland Village said.

"It is not just the separate entities, it is whole wide community ... Some of us are competitors, but we are not here to compete. We are here for the people."

Alfred Diaz can be reache at alfreddiaz@wwub.com or 526-8325.

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