Strong Kids Expo offers help for parents, fun for children

“Being a kid is tough… Being a parent can be tougher.” That’s the tagline for the upcoming Strong Kids Expo that organizers hope will serve as a chance for local families to get answers to all their parenting questions.

The expo will be held Saturday, Feb. 7 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Old Spanish Trail Arena, 3641 S. U.S. 191.

The idea for the expo originally began as separate events sponsored by different organizations. Geri Swift, the adoption coordinator for the Utah Foster Care Foundation (UFCF) in Moab, said she had been planning an event for National Drug Facts Awareness Week.

“I’d been working on it since August,” Swift said.

She had already enlisted the help of the Grand County Drug Dog team for a demonstration, as well as members of local emergency services. She’d also secured a spot at the Spanish Trail Arena.

Then Swift found out that Tiffany Van Sickle, a prevention specialist with Four Corners Community Behavioral Health in Moab, was trying to organize an event for Parents Empowered Month, a statewide ad campaign focused on preventing underage drinking through parental involvement. The two decided to combine their efforts.

“We wanted it to be a collaborative community event,” Van Sickle said.

The expo will also include representatives from Moab Regional Hospital, the Southeastern Utah District Health Department, the Grand County Sheriff’s Department, and the Moab Free Health Clinic, as well as other organizations.

“We’re really focusing on the concept of strength,” Van Sickle said. “There are a lot of challenges to raising kids.”

Swift is also hoping to spread the word about the Local Interagency Council (LIC), a committee of local agencies that provide social services as well as health and employment services in the Moab community, she said.

“All the agencies come together to help people get the services they need,” Swift said.

Swift said many people are afraid to use the services offered by the LIC.

“They’re worried that they’ll get turned in to the state,” she said. “But the whole point of the LIC is to help people get the services they need without state intervention.”

Recently, Swift said the LIC helped a father cover travel expenses to visit his daughter who was hospitalized in Salt Lake City.

“There’s a whole community network of support,” Van Sickle said. “People need to know they’re not in it alone.”

The focus of the expo will be building on strengths that families already have, Van Sickle said. The day will be split into activities and discussion panels for two different age groups, with the morning sessions focusing on parenting infants through third-graders. After a free lunch of pizza and salad, which Van Sickle said will be available while supplies last, the panel discussions will switch to information about parenting kids who are in fourth through 12th grade. At that point, a car seat checkpoint will be set up in the parking lot.

Each session will begin with a keynote address before participants head into the panel discussions. While parents are busy in the panels, children over the age of 4 can enjoy several activities.

“There will be a magician, crafts, a fire truck and an ambulance,” she said.

Demonstrations by the Grand County Drug Dog Team will take place at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

The panels are designed to allow parents to anonymously ask questions they might not be comfortable asking otherwise.

“There will be a table in the back of the panels where you can write down questions,” Van Sickle said.

Panel experts include a variety of local physicians and teachers in addition to mental health specialists and social workers.

“I am so excited to have the opportunity to be part of this expo,” Craig PoVey, the prevention program administrator with the Utah Department of Human Services said. “For those of us working in prevention, the quote ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ is thrown around a lot … Yet, as parents, we can often feel like that ounce is still pretty heavy. That’s why events like the Strong Kids Expo are so valuable to help parents and families know that there is a whole community of support there for them.”

“Just as families are the building blocks of a community, children are the building blocks of that community’s future,” Mike Hamblin, director of foster family recruitment for the UFCF said. “No matter our relationship with each child we come into contact with, we all have a vested interest in helping them to be strong. As we strengthen and prepare children to overcome challenges they face, the results are evident for generations to come. There are resources available for parents who aren’t sure how to do this, or just need a little support. Strong Kids Expo is a great starting place to find what resources and supports are available in the community and prepare for a brighter future.”

Van Sickle said a number of sponsors have come forward to help with food, door prizes and other services. Swift said the arena is not charging its usual rental fee for the event.

“They’ve put in hours and hours of work to make this happen at no charge,” she said. “It’s like the whole community has come together for this. Hopefully the whole community will attend.”

ByBy Laura Haley

Contributing Writer