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Clinics Give Kids a Healthy Back-to-School Sendoff

Some Colorado organizations are celebrating National Health Center Week with free backpacks and school supplies for low-income kids. (Pixabay)
Some Colorado organizations are celebrating National Health Center Week with free backpacks and school supplies for low-income kids. (Pixabay)
August 11, 2016

DENVER — Colorado is celebrating National Health Center Week to recognize the contributions of clinics that serve more than 23 million Americans.

The focus this year, according to Laurie Larrick, vice president of human resources and compliance with the High Plains Community Health Center, is on helping people in ways they normally can't in an exam room. After listening to many struggling families, she said, the clinic decided to give out backpacks filled with school supplies to relieve some of the stress involved with entering a new school year.

"School supplies are getting so expensive, the lists are so long, let's give away some backpacks,” Larrick said. “Let's put some school supplies in there; let's help our community in a way that we're really hearing that they are needing help."

The clinic will also give away first-aid kits and other items at several National Health Center Week events, including a movie night at the park, a kids' fair, and a scavenger hunt.

Free backpacks will also be given out at a Back-to-School Healthy Kids Fair on Saturday August 20th at the Stout Street Health Center in Denver. It's a rare opportunity for kids who usually only get hand-me-downs, said Cathy Alderman, vice president of communications and public policy with the the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless - the group that runs the Stout Street Health Center.

"Children living in poverty and children experiencing homelessness oftentimes don't get to pick things out for themselves,” Alderman said. “And the backpacks are filled with school supplies - pens and pencils, and paper - and whatever the kids need to really get a fresh start as they enter into the school year."

Along with snacks and face-painting, Alderman said, the center is also offering free immunization screenings, dental care, and hearing and eye exams during the event.

Children and families are among the fastest-growing groups in the homeless population; and according to Alderman, the current lack of affordable housing is partially to blame. She said the physical and mental-health effects of homelessness are especially hard on kids.

"The instability of homelessness means that there's going to be instability in their ability to attend school regularly,” Alderman said, “to maintain friendships with their classmates, maintain relationships with their school teachers."

The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless is accepting school supply donations through Friday, August 12 at its main office.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO