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Kidoodle Kids’ Day brings free healthcare, fun to area children

By Lydia Nuzum, Staff writer

 When Sandy Young approached the administration of Thomas Memorial Hospital in 1993 with an idea to make health care more accessible to kids, she wanted it to be a "celebration."

More than 20 years later, Kidoodle Kids' Day has expanded its celebration well beyond the small classroom the hospital used in its first year to perform free eye screenings for children. This year's event, which will be held at the South Charleston Community Center from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, will feature between 10 and 15 different health screenings and more than 60 activities focused on fun and safety, according to Young, director of Pediatrics/Medical-Surgical/Oncology at Thomas. 

"We moved from a class room to one parking lot to several parking lots," Young said. "We started this event to bring local providers of services for children and their families together to give parents one place to go to accomplish a lot of things."

The event, which has drawn hundreds of children and their families for the last several years, also features more than 75 organizations focused on health, safety and wellness. Health-care providers volunteering for the day will provide vision, dental, blood sugar and A1C, hearing, cholesterol, blood pressure and scoliosis screenings without appointment and free of charge.

"It's for our community, no matter their income," Young said. "We are a community hospital, and we're looking to help the people we serve. Initially, it was the children in South Charleston who were in close proximity to the hospital, but over the years it has expanded and we've reached out to other counties, as well."

The day includes prizes and giveaways for children, including 500 bicycle helmets, as well as safety demonstrations from local police and fire departments. The West Virginia State Police will provide car seat safety checks, and the Charleston Fire Department will have its "Smoke House," a multi-level trailer the agency uses to simulate fires and teach children how to avoid smoke inhalation. 

"We also like to focus on issues that are prominent in our community right now," Young said. "A couple of years ago, when a fire in Charleston killed two families, we partnered with emergency services for the county and gave out smoke detectors."

West Virginia American Water will be at the event to demonstrate hand washing technique, and the hospital has partnered with AT&T to promote awareness of the danger of texting while driving.

"We're designated a Level 4 trauma center by the state, and part of that includes prevention education for our designation," said Michelle Underwood, trauma coordinator for Thomas Memorial Hospital. "For a lot of kids, especially underprivileged kids, they don't have the opportunity for that, except at school. The biggest thing for me is that my daughter had a severe head injury while a cheerleader, and we've lobbied for some of that education."

The day will also include demonstrations and performances from Lee's School of Dance, Heroes4Higher and multiple area martial arts academies. The event will also have local partners who can sign families up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act marketplace. 

Kidoodle Kids' Day is sponsored by The Foundation for the Thomas Memorial and Saint Francis Hospitals. For more information, visit www.thomaswv.org/news.asp.

@tag: Reach Lydia Nuzum at lydia.nuzum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189. 


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