TUPELO – HealthWorks! is getting some heavy hitters to pitch in, drawing $117,000 from three grants for the children’s health education center.
“It just means there’s more neat things we can offer the children,” said Donna Loden, HealthWorks! education director, also known as the Imaginator of Awesome Experiences.
The center, which opened in February, focuses on hands-on, high-energy, innovative programs to teach kids about healthy choices. More than 7,000 people have come through the doors, including nearly 5,000 students on field trips.
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HealthWorks! expects even more visitors with program expansions. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation gave a $50,000 grant to the center.
“We opened with five core programs,” Loden said. “This will let us launch new programs in the fall.”
Appalachian Regional Commission has dedicated $65,000 to fund substance abuse prevention programs aimed at girls.
Research shows that girls are more likely to start using alcohol, tobacco and other drugs because of peer pressure, said Dean Hancock, president of the Health Care Foundation of North Mississippi, which spearheaded the community drive to build HealthWorks!.
“Some of the things we’re doing already,” Hancock said, but the grant will allow them to expand the programming.
The center also has received a $2,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It will be used for the BodyWork/Work Your Body camp this summer to help girls learn about health choices and exercise.
“We’re teaming up with the NMMC Wellness Center,” Loden said, which will give the girls a chance to put their bodies and minds into action.
The nonprofit HealthWorks! always will need support to ensure the HealthWorks! experience reaches every school child in the region, Hancock said. Most school groups pay between $4 and $5 per student per visit to the center, with discounts for students who qualify for free and reduced lunches.
“We’d probably have to charge $15 or $20 to actually be self-sustaining,” Hancock said.
Michaela Gibson Morris/Daily Journal