Spring has sprung across LA, and the North Area Neighborhood Development Council has teamed up with Charles Drew University to hold this year’s Spring Into Health Festival at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center.
The festival, scheduled for Saturday, March 31st, offers a fun way to raise awareness in the community about health, fitness, and nutrition through various activities, workshops, and screenings.
Free dental, vision, and health screenings will be on offer, as well as fitness tips and other information about health care coverage programs.
Yelba Castellon, the at large representative for the North Area Neighborhood Development council, is helping to organize this year’s event.
Having grown up in South Los Angeles, Castellon strives to give back to her community and hopes that this year’s Spring Heath Festival will help to make a difference.
“I think the reason why we’re all on the Empowerment Council is to address issues of our community, and it’s no surprise that South Los Angeles needs more access to health screenings,” Castellon said. “We’re trying to respond to the community needs.”
This year, the festival includes a Kids' Spring Fun Zone, complete with carnival games, arts and crafts, face painting, and an Easter egg hunt, as well as an Earth Day Zone, which will include planting activities for families and provide environmentally oriented information.
In addition, there will be an inflatable obstacle course, tennis clinics, yoga and fitness classes, free health screenings, and over 70 vendor booths.
Last year, more than 40 non-profit organizations and vendors helped to make the festival a success. Charles Drew University and UCLA volunteers also participated.
“We had so many different organizations involved. Charles Drew University really stepped it up and was a great partner. They had tons of volunteers. UCLA came out and their dentistry program did free dental work,” said Cassandra Reyes, the senior recreation director at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center.
Reyes is hoping that this year’s festival will be as successful. “It was just a really great event, you know? There were a ton of organizations there giving out information to the community, and a lot of it is valuable information that the community is not aware of. So the outreach aspect of the event was quite exceptional,” Reyes said.
More than 100 community and university volunteers from USC, UCLA, and Charles Drew University are expected to help organize cooking demonstrations, games, a 5k run, and other activities for over 800 low-income families and youth. In addition, 25 LAUSD school partners will be in attendance.
LA Councilman Bernard Parks and other council members, who went to last year’s festival, are expected to come again this year. Planned Parenthood and the Community Health Council are some of the organizations that are scheduled to attend this year’s festival too.
“It’ a really great festival for families and children,” said Shawn Simons, president of the North Area Neighborhood Development Council. Also a member of the South LA representatives for the Mayor Antonio Villagorosa’s budget advocate group, Simons has great hopes for this year’s festival.
“We’re providing free check-ups for families which will be really beneficial to the community,” Simons said.
As one of the chairs of the festival, Castellon is hoping that community members will be able to learn and take away new information from the event.
“The three objectives of this festival are to one, connect community members to resources. Two, raise awareness on health and wellness and promoting nutrition. And three, we provide a lot of giveaways. Last year, we gave away like 300 backpacks, yoga mats… and had free bags of organic produce from a non-profit that provides organic produce.”
The North Area Neighborhood Council hopes that the Spring Health Festival will help change the way low-income community members view health.
“I think we are just trying to address long-standing problems from a different point of view," Castellon said. "A different approach.”