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Ashland HEAL Coalition hosts inaugural Wellness Fair

A wellness fair in Ashland last Saturday was made possible through a HEAL grant and sponsored by the Ashland HEAL Coalition. Helping organize the event were (left to right) Donna Quinn from the Pubic Health Network of Central New Hampshire, Ashland Town Administrator Paul Branscombe, coalition co-chair Fran Newcomb, and Dr. Mardie Burckes-Miller of Plymouth State University. (Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
October 24, 2012
ASHLAND — A generous HEAL Grant, promoting Healthy Eating, Active Living, brought the first of what is hoped to be an annual wellness fair to Ashland last week, and it was met with great enthusiasm by local residents.

Ashland Town Administrator Paul Branscombe worked to bring the HEAL grant to the town, and the newly formed Ashland HEAL Coalition then joined forces with Plymouth State University and the Public Health Network of Central New Hampshire to organize the event.

"This is our first year, but we have so much going on, with 30 booths, seminars, a flu clinic, even Reiki and massage therapy," said co-chair Fran Newton. "We really have a lot of information, and a lot for people to see and do."

Dr. Mardie Burckes-Miller, professor of Health Education at PSU, helped prepare a number of booths with her students, educating the public on a variety of topics, from obesity and eating disorders to Lymes Disease, Triple E, and even protection from the sun.

"We've participated in wellness fairs in Plymouth and many venues for 25 years. When we saw the Ashland HEAL Coalition received their grant, we asked how we could help," said Burckes-Miller.

Hearing and blood pressure checks, vision tests and senior fitness evaluations were available for all and people lined up to take advantage of the free screenings. Sara Patterson, a registered dietician at PSU, also served up some healthy snacks for everyone to enjoy as they browsed the booths.

Even the Ashland Fire Department got involved, bringing lots of information on helmet safety, fire prevention, car seat safety for children and other important facts for residents.

"This is a great way to reach out to the community and make them more aware," said Chief Steve Heath.

Donna Quinn of the Public Health Network said there was a steady stream of people getting their flu vaccine, and she was glad her agency was able to participate in the wellness fair.

"This has been a really nice opportunity for us to catch families as a whole, and get everyone vaccinated this year," she said. "We're just about done visiting all the local schools, and today, we've been able to reach out to other family members and older citizens."

Throughout the morning, there were half hour seminars on nutritional meals, balanced diets, shopping healthy on a budget, and walking with pedometers. Physical activity sessions gave people a chance to try yoga, dance and other fun forms of exercise.

There was also some fun on top of all the education and good food. Each person was given a Bingo sheet with names of each booth in the squares. As they visited each booth the exhibitors would sign the appropriate square. When someone got two "Bingos" on their sheet they received a prize. Donations for the Bingo and door prizes were courtesy of Bob's Shur Fine, Bristol Animal Hospital, Northern Lakes Animal Hospital, Village Pizza, Cardigan Mountain Orchard and more.

The Ashland HEAL Coalition has been working since April when they were named one of four communities in the state to receive the HEAL grant. The towns, including Berlin, Laconia and Nashua, were awarded approximately $10,000 in grant money and more than $80,000 in training and technical assistance for the two-year duration of the grant. Since that time, Ashland has conducted a successful Sunday morning "Walk With Paul" program along the river and held meetings on improving community health and wellness.

For more information on upcoming events, visit the town Web site, www.ashland.org and click on "Ashland Heal Coalition."

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