By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – After more than four years and 110,000 visitors, HealthWorks! Children’s Health Education Center is delivering on its promises and challenging the region to help it continue.
On Thursday, the center officially launched a $2 million campaign to retire the center’s capital debt and help extend its programming.
“We are making a difference,” said Mitch Waycaster, who with James Threadgill and Dr. Rich Heyer, are co-chairing the campaign. Pre- and post- evaluations for children taking field trips to HealthWorks show measurably significant gains in health knowledge.
At least one student has put that knowledge to spectacular work. H.W. Byers student LaShavia Britteman came to HealthWorks! on a field trip paid for through an Appalachian Regional Commission grant almost two years ago.
“They encouraged me to stop eating junk food and start eating fruits and vegetables,” said the Holly Springs girl, who is now 12 years old. “I was able to see the difference.”
LaShavia and her mom committed to lifestyle changes.
She joined the dance team, and even though she struggled, her teammates and her teachers encouraged her to stick with it.
Over the course of two years, LaShavia dropped 70 pounds.
This spring, instead of struggling through dance team workouts, she was the girl who encouraged the newer members of the dance team.
“She never gave up on her journey,” said Davida Barrett, her fifth-grade math teacher and dance team sponsor.
LaShavia, her mother Sharon Marion, her teacher and her principal Chris Ferrell were the VIPs at Thursday’s HealthWorks! campaign announcement.
“LaShavia is a perfect example of what can happen when school, community and parents come together,” said H.W. Byers Principal Chris Ferrell. “This is a program we should all get behind.”
CONTINUING THE wORK
The initial HealthWorks! capital campaign, spearheaded by the Health Care Foundation, raised $4.7 million of the $6.7 million required to build the center, which opened in 2009.
Currently, the foundation pays $230,000 a year toward the capital loan and another $275,000 to subsidize the center’s operations.
“HealthWorks! is delivering on its promise of improved children’s health, but to continue that momentum, we must reduce the center’s remaining capital debt,” said Dean Hancock, foundation president.
Already, Health Care Foundation of North Mississippi, which spearheaded the creation of the interactive center, has $850,000 committed toward its $2 million “Delivering the Promise” campaign goal.
So far, the Dr. and Mrs. P.K. Thomas family endowment has committed $275,000.
Area physicians and dentists already have committed another $280,000.