Inspiring wellness

Jan. 22 health fair will go beyond losing weight and exercising
Dr. Sanjeev Sharma shows a model of the heart to his children at Providence Medford Medical Center. Sharma is one of the presenters at the Rogue Valley Health Fair. Photo by Julia MooreJulia Moore

Plans to educate a school district's employees about wellness have grown into the Rogue Valley's first full-fledged health fair.

Free to the public, the event will host dozens of vendors, lecturers and experts from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 22, on the Crater High School campus in Central Point. Sponsored by Providence Medical Group, the Rogue Valley Health Fair kicks off at 8 a.m. with a family fun run/walkathon to raise money for medically needy children supported by Sparrow Clubs. Proceeds from the fair will be donated to the nonprofit organization, says organizer Robin McMillin.

The Sparrow Story

Since 2002, Sparrow Clubs have raised more than $500,000 for nearly 200 children with serious medical needs in Southern Oregon.

Physicians, social workers, teachers and others in the community typically refer children to the local Sparrow chapter. Once a family applies, a doctor attests that the child has a life-threatening illness or a chronic, debilitating condition that qualifies them for financial assistance from the nonprofit group. Twenty-three local families applied for this school year, says Matt Sampson, Southern Oregon regional director for Sparrow Clubs USA.

Local schools typically "adopt" a Sparrow family with sponsorship from a local business, and students perform community service to raise funds, at least $2,560 per school. Many schools raise between $5,000 and $8,000 for their Sparrows, often by selling candy, canvassing for coins and holding carnivals, dances and other events, including the Rogue Valley Health Fair.

Through their clubs, students learn about "social responsibility," says Sampson. Although a school typically dedicates a single year to each Sparrow, he says, the tax-exempt bank account stays open for Sparrows' entire lives. To donate or for more information, call 541-621-1126 or e-mail

If you go

What: Rogue Valley Health Fair presented by Providence Medical Group; free and open to the public

When: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 22; walkathon begins at 8 a.m.

Where: Crater High School campus, 655 N. Third St., Central Point

For more information: See or call Robin McMillin at 541-494-6236.

Serving as the wellness coordinator for the Central Point School District, McMillin obtained grant funding to institute an employee wellness program. While planning and networking, McMillin received requests for a fair in the style of local home shows. She started soliciting sponsors in October, and Providence quickly signed on.

"This is such a great way for us to make a difference in the community and touch a lot of kids and their families," says Lauren Van Sickle, Providence spokeswoman.

Members of the medical group hope to teach children a little bit about science and medicine, perhaps to steer them toward careers in the field, says Van Sickle. Kids can view images and models of organs and anatomy at the fair. Some may even dissect pig hearts under the supervision of Providence cardiothoracic surgeon Sanjeev Sharma.

"When you've got a child that can touch a heart, that's really the catch," says Sharma.

Keeping the heart healthy through diet and exercise is his ultimate message, says Sharma. But many other avenues to wellness will be represented beyond "losing weight and exercising," says McMillin.

"People are starting to become more aware," she says.

Workshops held every hour in the school's classrooms will tackle topics such as finances, pregnancy, diabetes, nutrition and mental health, says McMillin. Free screenings will be available, along with information on preventative measures that can be implemented immediately, she says. A stage in the school's student center will feature live demonstrations and entertainment, including dance routines by America's Best Kids, she adds.

"The community is really, really hungry for some education opportunities around health and wellness."

Participants likely will learn about products and services outside their immediate communities, says McMillin. Raffles will highlight some vendors' wares, she says. And if participants don't want to purchase raffle tickets, they can run or walk laps that morning toward free raffle tickets, she adds.

The walkathon encourages entrants to collect pledges for Sparrow Clubs, but completing the form isn't necessary to enter, says McMillin. All raffle proceeds and funds in excess of the fair's expenses will be donated to the local chapter, which organizes schoolchildren to perform community service.

"It's touching an entire school and teaching those kids the importance of doing for others," says McMillin.

Download a pledge form online at

Reader Reaction
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Rules. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or fill out this form. New comments are only accepted for two weeks from the date of publication.