One healthy year for HealthWorks!

By Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – One year ago HealthWorks! opened its doors to the public with no idea of what to expect.
But after exactly 12 months, 25,000 visitors and countless people hours put in, Dean Hancock knows the product is a good one.
“Today is like opening your present one year later to finally see what you have,” Hancock said Saturday at the crowded first birthday celebration for the children’s health museum.
Hancock is president of the Health Care Foundation, which helped bring the South Bend, Ind.-based concept to Tupelo.
“We didn’t know exactly what we had when we first opened,” he said. “We didn’t know how it was going to work out. But after thinking back on the past year and looking at this crowd today, there is one thing that we know – HealthWorks! works.”
Joining in the celebration were members of the community as well as HealthWorks! staffers. Activities for children included a cake decorating contest and hula hoop competition.
Knowing that HealthWorks! is a success validates the $6 million that had to be raised just to get it up and running, said Hancock.
“It feels good to be able to show our donors that their money was well spent,” he said.
Enjoying the fun Saturday were both regulars and newcomers.
Melissa Middlebrooks and her two sons, Austin, 8, and Dylan, 6, have visited HealthWorks! several times over the past year.
“We love it,” Middlebrooks said as the boys ran around the room from exhibit to exhibit. “They learn so much about health and healthy living when they come here and they don’t even realize it. That’s why it’s worth the price of admission. Learning should be fun and that’s what this place has provided.”
Aaron Walls and his 9-year-old daughter, Courtney, were making their first visit
“We’ve heard about it but we live in New Albany and don’t come this way often, but we had some friends who come a lot and they invited us,” said Walls.
“I can definitely say I’m amazed at how well put together everything is, and we will be back. Had I come to something like this when I was a kid, I may be a doctor right now.”
After a year filled with pleasant surprises, Hancock said he can’t wait to see what the rest of 2010 means for HealthWorks!.
“We are excited about moving forward and excited about what HealthWorks! has meant to the community,” he said. “We are looking forward to continuing this success. And with the great staff we have here, that won’t be a problem.”

Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or danza.johnson@djournal.com