SEBRING — The Healthy Start Community Action Group of Highlands County presented its annual community educational event last Saturday at the Jack Stroup Civic Center in downtown Sebring. The theme of this year’s event was “Tummies to Teens – Empowering youth, one family at a time.”

“The Healthy Start Community Action Group is a collaborative group of community members and health service providers,” said Aisha Alayande, co-chair of the event. She is also the executive director of Drug-Free Highlands. Her co-chair was Khalila Montague, breast feeding coordinator with Florida Department of Health.

“We come together every year to put on a fun and educational event for the community. Our emcee this year is Larry Moore, who is the program director with the Heartland Rural Health Network,” Alayande said.

Tummies to Teens is an educational event where information and resources were shared with the community to enhance and support family health and wellness, at all stages. It is a learning exchange with professionals in many areas of public health. Attendees leave with tools to grow their family successfully.

Participating vendors included CARD (Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at USF), Florida Department of Health (breast feeding), iMAD, RMCA, Healthy Start, Nurse Family Partnership, Best Behavioral Solutions, Central Florida Health Care (CFHC), Barefoot Baby’s, Healthy Family Highlands, Peace River (victim services), Move Beyond, FND (Family Network on Disabilities), Early Steps, Art for Happy Minds, and Small and Simple Acts of Art.

Healthy Start had information available on several programs. “Teen pregnancy prevention is just one of our programs,” Savannah O’Steen said. “We also have programs like Safe Sleep and we coordinate intakes and referrals to other local service agencies as well as in-home education.”

Redlands Christian Migrant Association (RMCA) featured their child development centers. “We have quite a few programs,” said Yvonne Hankerson, center coordinator in Avon Park.

“Some of our Head Start services include early education focused on play, health and development screenings, family home visits and workshops and support during family transitions,” Hankerson said.

Mary Alexander is with Small and Simple Acts of Art. “We welcome all ages and with any type of disability. Autism, chronic illnesses, cancer, dementia, wheelchair bound or even someone that just needs to refocus,” she said.

“We want to do art with people who can’t afford it. This is accessible to everyone,” Alexander said. “We believe everyone is an artist and a writer and has their own story to tell.”

Best Behavioral Solutions offers a wide variety of services, according to Amber Ryan. Those services include behavioral therapy, social skills, creative arts workshops, parent training and mentoring.

The event also offered speakers including Maryanne Higgins (Barefoot Baby’s – breastfeeding information), YMCA (drowning prevention), CFHC (pediatrics and pediatric dentistry care), Araceli Gomez (brain and soul wellness), and Drug-Free Highlands (Health In & Healthy Out).

Raffle prizes were awarded and refreshments were served.

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