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Tribune’s annual Health and Wellness Expo a success
A Barton Community College nursing student helps a young boy use a stethoscope to check the heartbeat of his teddy bear as part of the Teddy Bear Clinic at the Great Bend Tribune’s Central Kansas Health and Wellness Expo Saturday morning at the Great Bend Events Center. The event featured vendors, exhibitors and speakers covering a wide variety of topics from physical to mental to financial health. - photo by BY DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

The Great Bend Events Center was teeming with activities Saturday as the Great Bend Tribune held its third-annual Central Kansas Health and Wellness Expo. In light of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s event focused on the importance of physical, mental and emotional wellness.

Saturday’s Expo featured more than 20 vendors addressing wide-ranging aspects of physical, mental, household and financial wellness for attendees of all ages and backgrounds.

“We typically hold our Expo in January, but COVID forced us to move it  to late February this year,” said Tribune Publisher Mary Hoisington. “Fortunately, the weather is a little more cooperative than what we can experience in January.”

Hoisington added that one of the many benefits of the Expo is it provides people a chance to return to some sense of socialization. “We still operate under COVID safety protocol, but in addition to providing awareness of the types of healthcare people have access to in our area, there is also the benefit of visiting with people in person. 

“We’ve been so limited to face-to-face interaction with each other for almost a year,” she said. "The Expo is really an opportunity for people to get out and interact with others while insuring safety guidelines for vendors and participants.” 

Hoisington noted in the past year, Barton County ranked 83rd out of 105 Kansas counties in the Kansas Health Institute’s Health behavior rankings, so helping promote healthy habits and lifestyles in the community is crucial.

Aaron Raney, who owns Iron Therapy at 3721 10th St (inside Anytime Fitness), is one of the new vendors participating in the 2021 Expo. 

“This is a great chance for us not just to promote our product. but to help people on their journey to better health and wholeness,” Raney said. “We help people in the areas of weight loss and also help them focus on weening themselves off of different kinds of medications through specific lifestyle changes.” 

One of the traditional vendors at the Expo, Great Bend Recreation Commission promotes active lifestyles by offering health and fitness classes for any fitness level. “We’ve participated in the Expo every year it has been held,” said Megan Hammeke, aquatics and enrichment director at the GBRC. “We usually feature our Imagination Playground at the Expo but because of COVID, we are not able to do that safely this year.” 

Hammeke noted that the Rec continues to hold wellness classes for the community. “Those classes are hosted in the Jean Cavanaugh Wellness Center.”

Hammeke noted that while Saturday’s event started off cool and foggy, past expos have experienced snow and other inclement weather. 

“Also, even though people are masked up and we’re in the middle of a pandemic, it looks like our turnout is even better this year compared to last year,” she said. “Bad weather kept a lot of folks away in the past but the only issue this year is some early fog and mildly cold weather.”

Another feature at Saturday’s Expo which focused on children and health was the Teddy Bear Clinic presented by the Barton Community College School of Nursing. “The Expo is really a great way to promote The Teddy Bear Clinic to help young children feel calm and relaxed during a trip to the doctor’s office or any other medical experience where they might be unfamiliar or fearful,” said Kristin Steele, Nursing Instructor. 

“Whether they’re getting a shot or having an X-ray, children can become very nervous in a medical environment and this just serves as a way to bring calm to what can be a very stressful situation for a child,” said Steele. The Teddy Bear Clinic works to reduce fear and put smiles on the faces of children by giving the teddy bear the same treatments they are receiving.

Some of the other highlights featured at the 2021 Expo included:

• Free informative sessions as well as interactive activities.
• Products and services designed to help people live better.
• Education and awareness of new developments in medical care and customized alternative treatments
• Free blood pressure checks
• American Red Cross Blood Drive

Informational sessions included: Julie Kramp from The Center for Counseling and Consultation who discussed the #ZeroReasonsWhy community impact campaign to prevent teen suicide; University of Kansas Health System - Great Bend Campus featured three speakers who discussed a variety of topics; physical therapist Melanie Schroeter discussed how stress and pain are related; Megan Donecker, director of the Sleep Lab at the UKHS Pawnee Valley Campus in Larned, spoke on the impact of sleep on overall health, as well as diagnostics and treatments for sleep issues; and Gina Westoff, PA, provided information regarding mammograms.