Three hours into the Student Health Fair, the Julia Randall Elementary School gym still rocked with activities.
Tina Terry, a Payson High School English teacher and host of the student yoga club, had the sound system firmly in hand, guiding more than 25 children and adults through various poses.
“…and breathe…okay. Now, walk your feet up to your hands…” she intoned in a crooning yoga voice.
Little ones furtively looked around to see what adults did, while the adults watched Terry’s husband go through the poses.
Set up around the edges of the gym, booths manned by local organizations handed out information on a myriad of health issues.
At the Gila County Health Department, families learned about how to have the best bones forever, while the student nurses of Gila Community College checked body mass index and blood pressure.
All in all, 28 organizations supported the fair put on by the Payson Unified School District and the Coordinated School Health Advisory Council (or CSHAC for short).
Judy Perham, the Payson Elementary School physical education teacher and chair of CSHAC, spearheaded the event.
She said the organizations made it easy to put together.
“Most of them come to our monthly meetings,” said Perham.
CSHAC holds monthly meetings and invites the community to attend to help create a district-wide health policy.
Perham said every school district in Arizona must have a plan to address nutrition, activity, what’s sold in vending machines, and student safety.
In her rolodex, she said she has over 95 contacts. She made a call-out and many came to help.
One was Payson Regional Medical Center. Chris Wolf, chief executive officer; Kathy Brandenburg, director of practice management; and Patti Patterson, marketing and public relations, came to tell families about immunizations, washing hands, how much water to drink and healthy eating habits.
Brandenburg said that parents wanted to know about immunizations and students were more interested in how much water to drink.
All the PRMC folks said no one was much interested in learning to wash hands.
However, Wolf said the most popular event was Native Air landing a helicopter outside the gym.
“Forty kids were doing Zumba when they heard the helicopter landing,” he said. “All 40 immediately stopped and rushed outside to see Native Air.”
The fair went until 8:30 because of a double-booking, the high school had its musical “Beauty and the Beast” performance. Many of the actors participate in Team Ex-yo, a yo-yoing group of young men who participate in yo-yo contests around the nation.
At 7:45, the team arrived and started doing tricks with yo-yos the kids had never seen before. Little ones barely five stared with open mouths at the wild tricks Neuman Becker and his team wowed the crowd with, including popping a yo-yo off its string, letting it roll on the floor and capturing it once again.
In another corner doing a hopping business, Vita Mart owners Christine and B.J. Bollier taught families how to repackage healthy food to make it fun to eat.
The two had celery sticks and numerous spreads and sprinkles, from Pumpkin Guts — a spread with mashed sweet potatoes, applesauce and pumpkin pie spice — to Star Dust (coconut).
B.J. said kids surprised their parents.
“One mom looked at me and says, ‘He won’t eat celery; he hates celery,’” said B.J. “All of a sudden she looks over at her son and he’s eating celery! The boy said he liked the ants on a log (raisins).”
B.J. credited the names and creative mixtures of spreads to his wife, Christine.
Zumba, a high-energy dance that combines South American and belly dancing themes, both opened and closed the fair.
“D”, a petite, joyful, dark-haired Zumba teacher, ran a Zumba session up to 8:30. Again about 20 little ones and their adults came out on the floor to shimmy, shake, and glide along with toe-tapping music all smiling with the joy of movement.
As the music died down, one little boy took a huge bite of a big red apple.
Mission accomplished: healthy habits introduced.