By Michaela Gibson Morris
TUPELO – Former first lady Laura Bush charmed a sellout crowd at the BancorpSouth Conference Center as she advocated for HealthWorks! Monday night.
At the Celebrating HealthWorks! event hosted by the Health Care Foundation of North Mississippi, Bush shared family updates, lessons learned as a young teacher and her introduction to Dr. Nose It All and Brian Brain at the children’s health education center in Tupelo on Monday afternoon.
“It’s really fun,” Bush said. “Instead of books and tests, children are being educated with science, discovery and active play. ”
She also talked about meeting LaShavia Britteman, a young teen from Holly Springs, who was inspired to make healthier choices as a result of field trips to HealthWorks! With help from her mom and joining the school dance team, she lost more 70 pounds. She commended the community support from across the region that has made the center a reality.
“You’re supporting health literacy for children all over North Mississippi,” said Bush, who continues to work on behalf of literacy and global health through the Bush Institute.
HealthWorks! children’s education center will mark its fifth birthday in January. It was conceived as a center where children could get excited about learning about healthy choices.
“It has touched the lives of over 125,000 students in our region,” said Tupelo family physician Dr. Edward Hill, former president of the American Medical Association, who introduced Bush.
Monday night’s event is part of a $1.8 million campaign to retire the center’s capital debt and provide continued support for innovative programming. The foundation, which is the philanthropic arm of North Mississippi Health Services, has raised $1.4 million.
“We’re going to have a good time tonight and raise a lot of money,” said Bobby Martin of Ripley, a leader in the first campaign that brought HealthWorks! to life. He was honored later Monday night as a Foundation Fellow for a lifetime of service.
The crowd enjoyed Bush’s tales about readjusting to life outside the White House, where dirty socks and wet towels don’t magically get picked up.
“George and I have a very normal life,” Bush said. “We’re happy to be back in Texas living what I call the ‘afterlife’ in the state George calls the ‘promised land.’”
The crowd cooed over stories of Bush’s first grandbaby, Mila, who arrived in May, and the silliness of trying to figure out grandparent names. She made a few gentle jokes at her husband’s expense.
“She was really friendly,” said Gunner Goad, who with wife, Anne Marie, was able to meet Bush before the event.