There were different options for different people on Saturday at the Cox Convention Center for The Bart and Nadia Sports & Fitness Festival, but one theme remained the same.
It was a dedication to the full spectrum of health — both seen and unseen.
The seen was spread out across the convention center floor, with interactive exhibits and booths to engage families in healthy activities and to educate them on nutrition.
The unseen was inside a big white van with a smiling sun on the side: children’s vaccinations.
Through a partnership between The Oklahoma Caring Fund and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma, free vaccinations and VMI (visual-motor integration) screenings were offered to children at the festival.
The free services offered by the OCF embody the vision of Olympic legends Bart Conner and Nadia Comaneci in spearheading the Sports & Health Festival.
“This is free, family fitness fun,” Conner said. “We don’t want it to be exclusionary in any way.”
Kendra Jones is the program coordinator for the OCF. She said the white van makes 15-20 stops per year at venues like the Sports & Health Festival. Most of the time, the vans — all five in their fleet — are out in the community five days a week, aiding families in need across the state.
“The families are very thankful,” Jones said. “It eliminates barriers and costs of going to the doctor. We bring the van to where the parents are. It helps so they don’t have to take time off of work, things like that.”
Getting vaccinated, for adults and children, can often be an intimidating experience. That’s why Jones said it was so important to get their message out at the festival, with plenty of prizes and activities for the kids.
“I have a 6-year-old son, so when we go in for the shots, it’s a little terrifying,” Conner said. “I think he realized he gets a sucker out of the deal, so it’s not so bad.”
Conner hopes the awareness spread by the OCF and other vendors at the convention center will help rebrand Oklahoma as a health-conscious state.
“One of the key elements that we’re trying to promote is the concept that you need to take ownership of your health and wellness,” Conner said. “You can’t just go through life and then realize, ‘Wow, I’m overweight, I have high cholesterol and I have type 2 diabetes. What am I going to do?’ And I think it’s the kind of thing where if you know at a young age that I need to own it, you somehow take care of it differently.
“I think this is really impactful for kids. If we can tell kids, ‘Guess what? Own it now when you’re 7, 8, 9 or 10 years old, so later on it’s not an issue.’”
For more information on the OCF’s free vaccination program, visit www.oklahomacaringfoundation.org.