The annual Back-to-School Family Affair Event is extremely important to the entire UT Health Science Center family, Pamela Houston, director of the Office of Special Events and Community Affairs at UTHSC, said after the most recent one held last weekend.
Sponsored by Omega Ministries/Omega Healthy Practices and the Healthcare Organizations of Greater Memphis Coalition, the 28th annual Back-to-School Family Affair was hosted by UTHSC on Saturday in the Student-Alumni Center.
Originally started as an event that assisted 150 children from the Memphis area, it has grown to serve more than 1,000 from all over the Mid-South, with free health screenings, physical exams, immunizations, dental, vision and blood pressure screenings. UTHSC has participated in the event for more than 20 years, and two years ago, UTHSC began doing a school supply drive several weeks before the event on campus to equip students for the new school year.
“Many rendered their services on Saturday and gave liberally toward the school supply drive, as we understand the challenges in our community concerning poverty and education,” Houston said. “If we can do anything to minimize obstacles that so often hinder a successful school year for our youth, we are only tapping into a portion of our mission. This is our call and our responsibility.”
The Office of Special Events and Community Affairs played a large role by directing the supply drive with 13 drop-off locations throughout campus several weeks before the event. More than four years ago, UTHSC began purchasing backpacks to donate at the event. This year, UTHSC was able to purchase 1,000 backpacks, which were filled with the school supplies and given away to students.
The event, which is held each July, brings together health care professionals and student volunteers from organizations including the UTHSC Colleges of Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy, Hamilton Eye Institute, Baptist Memorial Hospital, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, Regional One Health, Shelby County Health Department, Lifeblood and many more to provide health care to the children in attendance regardless of whether their families are insured or uninsured. Among the services provided, 161 physical exams were done by the UTHSC College of Nursing and 194 dental screenings were performed by the UTHSC College of Dentistry.
Students were also surprised to learn that bicycles were donated to the event— 12 from Noah Boyd Lodge, 11 from Firestone Dental Group, and one from Orion Federal Credit Union. A raffle was held every 30 minutes in which students drew names for the chance to win a bike. Bicycle helmets were donated by Safe Kids Mid-South.
Families from the UTHSC Shelby County Relative Caregiver Program, a program developed to assist children who are being raised by their relatives because their parents are not able to do so, were also invited to attend. “The event Saturday was truly a blessing to the families we serve because it provided them with some of the necessary items and services needed for the children to start school on a positive note,” said Teresa English, program administrator. “With the university providing backpacks, school supplies and the opportunity to get the necessary immunizations for school, a lot of stress was taken off of grandmothers and other relatives in the program.”