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

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.

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 www.roguevalleyhealthfair.org/walk-a-thon.