Jordan Jackson led his mother in a high-speed chase around the Wayne K. Curry Sports and Learning Complex indoor track. With a smile, she tailgated behind him while pushing his stroller during her pursuit.
Bertina Calvin-Jackson and her son were one of dozens of families to participate in the third annual Color Me Healthy Health & Fitness Expo on April 17, hosted by the Prince George’s County, Md. chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc.
More than 30 healthcare professionals shared their expertise with local children and parents at the Landover, Md. community center. Staying true to their mission, the chapter targeted local youth and engaged them with interactive games while also providing educational material for parents to take home.
“You do not find many health expos geared to the children,” said Anissa Wilson, president of the Prince George’s County chapter of Jack and Jill of America. “We’re trying to educate children on preventative health as well as , an initiative of the first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama.”
Wilson noted that this is the first year mental health has been a component of the expo.
“We’re finding out more about the depression and suicide rates among children,” she said.
A study released last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the overall suicide rate among all children aged five to 11 years remained stable between 1993 to 1997 and 2008 to 2012. However, the suicide rate in that time increased significantly among Black children and decreased in white children.
“Many factors affecting Black youth, including increased exposure to violence and traumatic stress, early onset of puberty, and lower likelihood to seek help for depression, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts may be contributing to the disparity,” Jeffrey Bridge of the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus told Health Day News. “But the specific impact of each of these risks is unclear.”
The health expo catered to children between five and 18 years old. However, Calvin-Jackson brought her son, who will be two in May, to get him on the right track at an early age. He played with a tennis ball and racket, and ran around with other small children.
“I’m exposing him to a lot of educational things, but I think the health and fitness aspect is important as well,” Calvin-Jackson said. “I just want to get him active.”
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker was the keynote speaker, and several council members awarded grants to the local Jack and Jill of America, Inc. chapter to help fund the event. Among those presenting grants were Derrick Davis, District 6; Andrea Harrison, District 5; Todd Turner, District 4; and Karen Toles, District 7. Three bicycles were raffled, a consignment shop was set up for teens who visited at least two health professional tables, and DJ Sixth Sense broadcasted the event live on Radio One station 93.9 WKYS.
“Every year we have grown,” said Kay Proctor, chairperson of the local chapter’s grants committee. “My vision was every year to get bigger and better and to provide more to the community and our youth. We need to educate and allow our children to see that leading healthy lives is important starting off at a young age.”
The Prince George’s County chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc. will join the March of Dimes on Saturday, April 30 for the March for Babies walk at Watkins Park in Upper Marlboro, Md. The chapter will begin its annual summer recess in May and resume activities in September.