ST. ALBANS — Northwestern Medical Center’s third annual ‘Healthy Hearts on the Move’ event on Saturday stressed awareness of heart disease risks and preventative measures. It attracted more than 300 attendees Saturday at St Albans City School.

“Much credit for the great turn-out goes to Joan Cavallo, principal at City School,” said Jill Berry Bowen, CEO of NMC, who helped oversee the event “Joan got the word out through her students, and this year it was a lot more family oriented.”

As with any collaborative event, the school and hospital staff worked in unison. “The NMC team was great, they came in and transformed this place [City School] so quickly,” said Cavallo, about the NMC team of volunteers who arrived at the school beginning at 7 a.m..

NMC provided more than 50 volunteers, staff members and instructors, including food prepared by hospital chefs and activity booths to keep the kids involved.

Families were welcomed with a goodie-bag and given a ‘Passport to a Healthier You,’ which kept children and adults on the move. The ‘Passport’ was filled with risk-factor questions, which tallied each participant’s risk level. In addition, for each booth visited and health screen completed, a ‘stamp’ was earned for that category. Passport holders that completed all stamped categories could enter to win the $300 gift certificate to Jay Peak Ski Resort.

Adults had the opportunity to participate in Tai Chi and Yoga, or receive a massage to help eliminate stress.

“As a hospital volunteer it is great to take advantage of these types of events. Having a massage is very therapeutic,” said Gloria Bechard, who took time out to receive a massage, along with her granddaughter Keri.

“The chair massage focuses on the neck, shoulders and upper back,” said Stacy Raine, a certified massage therapist, practicing in St. Albans. Raine appreciated being a part of the event, “Participating is great for making new connections with people, especially those that have never experienced massage before.”

In the gymnasium, families were introduced to Tae-Kwon-Do, led by Master Guy Laplant. The cafeteria had informational booths and refreshments, such as ‘Choc-ful Cupcakes,’ which featured spinach and blueberries, baked by NMC’s sous-chef, Carrie Cosentino. Heart-smart recipes were handed out as accompaniment to the delicious treats on display: hummus and pita chips; guacamole and the unique cupcakes.

Adult health screenings also were conducted in the cafeteria, and included cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar level verification. While parents were learning about the risks of heart disease and how to better take care of themselves, their children were entertained through story-telling, airbrushed face painting and by personalizing a re-usable lunch bag. “Decorating the bags was my favorite part of the day,” said Madison Hughes, a fourth grader at St. Albans Town Educational Center.

“This year we wanted to offer those reusable snack bags but they’re fairly expensive per item. So, we put the call out to our staff and had six women volunteer to make them,” explained Kate Laddison, NMC Community Relations specialist. “Nearly two-hundred hand-made bags were made for the kids to go home with; just a neat little add-on from our amazing staff.”

“I spoke to someone who said she loved the event and was inspired to learn her heart disease risk at this year’s event, as she was turning 60,” said Laddison. “Her plan was to come back next year for the event and make sure her Passport showed better numbers. To me, that’s what the event is all about, inspiration and action!”

Wellness Journey

This weekend’s heart-health event corresponds with City Schools’ month-long wellness initiative, which enters its third week. The goal is to help students focus on becoming more mindful and physically well. The next two weeks will focus on exercise and nutrition.

The wellness plan began with students learning the importance of water, followed by a week of awareness for themselves and others through mindful-meditation. Week three introduces exercise, with short interactive videos in the morning announcements.

“The exercise videos are all being done by teachers and students at our school. They are sharing their talents and skills to help each other become healthier, while having fun,” said Desiree Gunter of the schools’ Wellness Team. The Wellness Team encourages teachers to take time to enjoy these fun videos with their students this week and to get their classes ‘moving to the music.’

During the final week, wellness will be encouraged through proper nutrition and continued exercise. Students will learn the importance of good nutrition for the body and mind. Tying all four weeks together, teachers and students school-wide will compete in a friendly door-decorating contest. Each week the students will have created on their classroom doors artful reflections of what they’ve learned and by the end of the month each door should represent all four-themes from their Wellness Journey.