The idea originally came as a way to promote healthy decisions among the school’s staff.
Murray said the reactions of teachers, aides and instructors were positive.
“Wow, this is great,” some told Murray, while others focused on the size of the turnout.
“This is bigger than I thought,” added others. “There are so many vendors.”
Organizations piled in until more than 20 spread throughout out the theater. Bright pamphlets attracted the eyes of children as classes made their way through the packed room. Children’s chatter escalated at the sight of candy strewn across various tables.
Ashley Hathaway at DentaQuest’s table tried a different tactic.
“This is Mojo,” Hathaway informed a group of students staring at the stuffed monkey. “He likes to shoot toothpaste.”
A stream of water shot from Mojo’s mouth onto the nearest student. Squeals erupted as the targeted student stared blankly at his shirt. Another stepped up, “Try and get me, Mojo.”
Between passing out bags filled with a toothbrush and two-minute sand timer, Hathaway explained DentaQuest’s purpose in attending the health expo.
“We have a comprehensive outreach program,” Hathaway said. “It is basically designed to increase dental awareness, increase the use of preventative care and just to educate the community on oral health.”
Sargeant Alan Bailey of the Tennessee Highway Patrol said the health fair is another way to present a friendly face to kids.
“We have a lot of parents who say, ‘If you don’t act right, he will put you in jail,’” Bailey said. “This allows for one-on-one talks.”
Students picked up colorful pamphlets and sticker badges as they spoke with Bailey. He said a lot of the children asked him why they were not allowed to sit in the front seat. Others wanted to know about booster seats.
He said he enjoyed talking with the kids.
“We want [students] to see us as a friend, because if they ever get lost or if they are ever in need, we don’t want them to be afraid of us,” Bailey said. “We want them to come to us, if they need something, if they can’t get a hold of their parents.”
Kaye Smith of UT Extension managed to shock adults and children alike with a board on sugar. A line of popular sports and soda bottles lined her table. Each was empty with the exception of the amount of sugar used for each recipe.
She said a lot of people were shocked to see the amount of sugar in each.
“Your body doesn’t recognize it is a sugar. It is just a carbohydrate,” Smith said. “The more you put in your body, your body can’t process it.”
School nurse Sue Griffith gave full support to the health expo. She also provided a couple of good reminders for children and adults a like.
“I think we try to educate them with the basics: good hand washing, plenty of rest and healthy food,” Griffith said. “I think if we can instill those points now in this time in their lives, hopefully they will carry that on and help the general population in the future.”