Fair offers free school supplies, haircuts and health care

Saturday, August 9, 2014 | 7:18 p.m. CDT; updated 8:53 p.m. CDT, Saturday, August 9, 2014
Hundreds of children, accompanied by their parents or guardians, gathered at the MU Family Impact Center to receive free school supplies and health screenings before the start of the school year.

COLUMBIA —  At 8:30 a.m., the line of adults and children extended across the parking lot at 105 Ash St. A few kids played in the lot, including a girl who cartwheeled over a puddle. The doors were set to open in a half-hour.

After the Family Impact Center doors opened, a small line still lingered outside the door for an hour more as families continued to file in.

Allana Bullock and her son, Lance, stood near the front of the line. Lance, a third-grader at Rock Bridge Elementary School, said he was excited to get a new backpack.

He said he wanted a Batman or Captain America backpack to complement his Spiderman backpack, but said he'd be OK with a plain red backpack, which made his mom smile.

Students such as Lance received free school supplies, haircuts and health screenings Saturday morning at the Boone County Back-to-School Health Fair. Local health care professionals checked eyes, teeth and ears, while kids picked up backpacks, notebooks and received free haircuts. 

The eighth annual fair was the result of a joint effort among the Voluntary Action Center, Family Impact Center and Family Health Center, Nick Foster, Voluntary Action Center executive director, said.

Attendees were given a piece of paper when they walked in the door — pink for elementary school students and gold for secondary school students.  They were told they needed to get signatures from the 16 organizations upstairs, including Boy Scouts of America, Burrell Behavioral Health and Rainbow House.

Those who got the needed signatures could then exchange their paper for a backpack from HealthCare USA. Bullock reminded Lance of all the available supplies and the booths they had to visit in order to get the backpack.

"How do I remember all this?" Lance said. Bullock said she would take care of the details.

Lance didn't let go of the Beanie Baby he picked up at the Boy Scouts' table. The camouflage-patterned bear named Hero rode around on Lance's shoulders throughout the morning. Lance said he wanted to be a Boy Scout so he could "shoot BB guns, eat bugs and have a lot of fun."

Snips of hair dusted the ground around Beth Worley as she took hair clippers to the back of eighth-grader Jarrod Lilly's head.

"It's very artistic," Worley said of cutting hair. "There's a lot of geometry involved."

Jarrod, who said he comes to the fair every year, was accompanied by Maryann McCormack, his grandmother. McCormack said she has 34 grandchildren, but only nine of them were at the fair with her.

Worley said she could give a good haircut in 10 to 15 minutes and said her goal was to perform 30 haircuts before she left. She was joined in the hair cutting by a few Merrell University cosmetology students.

The early arrivals got the backpacks Saturday. Renee Hendrickson, an outreach events coordinator with HealthCare USA, said she thought about 250 of the 475 available backpacks had been given away by 11 a.m.

Bullock got two green backpacks once she turned in her gold paper – one for Lance and another for Lance's older brother, a student at Rock Bridge High School. It wasn't red, but Lance shrugged and said he felt "great" about his backpack anyway.

Supervising editor is Samuel Hardiman.

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