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THHS Kids Health Fair full of healthy fun and subliminal good-health messages

By B.L. Azure
THHS PIO

Nkwusm students and staff get anatomy lessons at the University of Montana’s SpectrUM hands-on display. (B.L. Azure photo)Nkwusm students and staff get anatomy lessons at the University of Montana’s SpectrUM hands-on display. (B.L. Azure photo)

ST. IGNATIUS — The first time proved to be the charm for the acting Tribal Health and Human Services Fitness Centers programs manager. The charming first time was the annual Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes THHS annual Kids Health Fair at the St. Ignatius Fitness Center Friday.

The event usually held in October was put on hold a month due to the collateral damage resulting from the federal government shutdown. In particular the effect it had on the potential for employee furloughs or lay offs.

Healthy smiles are a welcome sight anywhere you are and there were plenty at Friday’s THHS Kids Health Fair in St. Ignatius. (B.L. Azure photo)Healthy smiles are a welcome sight anywhere you are and there were plenty at Friday’s THHS Kids Health Fair in St. Ignatius. (B.L. Azure photo)

To its credit the CSKT governing body in cahoots with the administrative arm were able to come up with a financial tourniquet that stemmed the potential loss of staff but it was something they couldn’t do indefinitely. Consequently the Fitness Center staff took a precautionary timeout on conducting the Kids Health Fair until the powers that be in the East passed a federal budget.

“We did it,” said Lance Hawkins, acting THHS Fitness Centers manager, on putting together and hosting the annual Tribal Health Kids Health Fair — his first ever such endeavor after taking over the reins from Margene Asay, who recently retired after working for 37 years at Tribal Health.

So this is what’s inside my noggin. Youngsters at the Kids Health Fair learned a lot at the UM SpectrUM display. (B.L. Azure photo)So this is what’s inside my noggin. Youngsters at the Kids Health Fair learned a lot at the UM SpectrUM display. (B.L. Azure photo)

This year’s Kids Health Fair was in honor of Asay, who was clearly surprised when she was lauded at the event. Margene has been dealing with health issues since September and is currently recovering from neck surgery and bears a neck brace. However, that didn’t affect the tear flow when she found out what was going on.

“This is really a surprise,” Asay said. “In the 37 years I have been working for Tribal Health my focus has been on the youth of our community whether they tribal or non-tribal. I give kids my full attention wherever I’m at, whether it’s at an organized function or just on the street or in the store. I am proud of that. I just love to spoil kids. The kids come up to me and tell me they remember me from something I was involved in here at Tribal Health or at things like the River Honoring. That brings me a lot of joy.”

It’s never too early for folks to start taking care of their choppers; youngsters learned that and a lot more about proper dental care at the Tribal Health Dental Program booth. (B.L. Azure photo) It’s never too early for folks to start taking care of their choppers; youngsters learned that and a lot more about proper dental care at the Tribal Health Dental Program booth. (B.L. Azure photo)

Hawkins acknowledged Asay and Sonny Doney sang an honor song for her.

“If anyone can say they are dedicated to the lives of kids it’s Margene,” Hawkins said. “All these activities we do on the reservation probably got started because of Margene. We just hope we can do as well as she has.”

Then the show went on.

“It’s really nice that all these various programs could come and give us a hand in making this a successful and fun event,” Hawkins said. “There are a lot of kids here. This a great turnout and I am very happy with it.”

Here’s looking at you, Georgie. Nkwusm Salish Language School student Georgie Coffey checks out a bovine eyeball at the Kids Health Fair. (B.L. Azure photo)Here’s looking at you, GeorGye. Nkwusm Salish Language School student GeorGye Coffey checks out a bovine eyeball at the Kids Health Fair. (B.L. Azure photo)

One of the major draws at area health fair aimed at youngsters and adolescents is the very popular University of Montana SpectrUM hands-on science learning station. Lily Haines and Jenica Andersen of SpectrUM said the traveling section of the Missoula based program is an outreach effort that exposes children to the wonders of science and sparks their curiosity in the scientific arena.

“We like to do this because it’s good way to practice our scientific careers,” Andersen said. “It’s really good to make connections with the kids. I like it when they think outside the box and SpectrUM brings that out of them. Their faces light up when they are learning these things hands-on. I just love this.”

Sonny Doney, who sang an honor song for Margene Asay, gets a hug of appreciation from her. (B.L. Azure photo)Sonny Doney, who sang an honor song for Margene Asay, gets a hug of appreciation from her. (B.L. Azure photo)

“I do this because I was inspired to pursue a career in science when I was young,” Haines said. “It’s hard for kids to get science but SpectrUM helps them bridge that gap.”

The stations at the Kids Health Fair included: Kicking Horse Job Corps, UM SpectrUM, THHS Community Health nurses, dental, tobacco prevention and diabetes programs, Friends Forever Mentoring, the Fatherhood Program, and Tribal Social Services among others.

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