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Crowds of more than 1,000 attend annual health event

Crowds flooded the Mitchell Christian School gym Saturday, eager to give, to get, and to enjoy some healthy family fun at the Mitchell Chamber of Commerce Health and Wellness Fair.

Charles Pederson, Ahnna Cousins
Ross Dolan/Republic Ahnna Cousins, 4, of Mitchell, is interviewed Saturday by Charles Pederson, of the Mitchell Masonic Lodge, at the Mitchell Chamber of Commerce Health and Wellness Fair at Mitchell Christian School. Nearly 100 other children were photographed, interviewed, fingerprinted, and had dental impressions taken as part of the South Dakota Child Identification Program (SD CHIP), a program sponsored by the Masons of South Dakota. The state Dental and Sheriffs' Associations also participated in ...

Crowds flooded the Mitchell Christian School gym Saturday, eager to give, to get, and to enjoy some healthy family fun at the Mitchell Chamber of Commerce Health and Wellness Fair.

"The crowd was exceptional," said chamber assistant director Karen Jorgenson, noting that Saturday's 50-degree temperatures encouraged an excellent turnout.

Many adults came early to take advantage of low-cost blood sugar and cholesterol tests that required fasting and participants of all ages enjoyed the free health screenings, educational materials, samples and massages.

"We had over 45 vendors and while we don't yet know the number of persons who took part, we feel we at least equaled the 1,500 who participated in last year's event," she said.

In some cases, maintaining health can be as simple as buckling up.

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Trooper Mark Nelson of the state Highway Patrol said about 30 families visited his car seat booth Saturday and about a dozen families asked him to double-check their child safety seats.

"In most cases the seats just aren't installed tightly enough," he said.

New this year was the baby crawl, an event in which family members at the release and finish lines called, cooed and cajoled easily distracted toddlers toward waiting arms and victory.

The stakes were higher -- free bicycles donated by Thiesse Chiropractic-- in the kids' hula hoop contest.

In one competition, it took three rounds and the ability of 8-year-olds to keep three hoops moving simultaneously before Sara VanErdewyck of Mitchell -- cool under pressure -- rode away on her bike.

Leonard and Holly Cousins, who recently moved to Mitchell from Brookings with daughters Ahnna, 4, and Signey, 10 months, were typical of families who attended.

Mrs. Cousins said "I'm impressed. I guess I didn't realize how many health services there were in Mitchell."

Mr. Cousins, who donated blood at the event, agreed. "We're coming from Brookings thinking that Mitchell is a smaller town, but you've got just as much to offer here."

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In their final stop, the Cousins family stopped by the South Dakota Child Identification Program (SD CHIP) booth, which was manned by volunteers. There, Ahnna was fingerprinted and had digital and video identification photos taken. A DNA cheek swab and dental impressions also were taken.

Volunteer and local attorney Doug Papendick, a member of the Mitchell Masonic Lodge, an program sponsor, said the project provided parents with a DVD disc that can used to supply information to law enforcement in the event their children are lost or abducted. He recommended taking a copy while on vacation.

"It's a great program for identifying kids if anything should happen to them," said Papendick.

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