Volunteers provide free physicals for area youth
August 14, 2009
- Assisted 125 unisured local children receive physicals for school
- Program started 9 years ago, and has gown into 3 events
FORT BELVOIR, Va. -- With Labor Day just around the corner, the summer is coming to an end for school children throughout the Mount Vernon community.
For Fairfax County Public Schools, classes begin the day after Labor Day and the time has come for children to get their yearly physicals.
For families who cannot afford medical insurance, this can be difficult.
On Saturday, roughly 125 local children of uninsured families participated in the Mount Vernon and Lee District Back-to-School Physicals to get examined and to get the necessary immunizations.
Fort Belvoir partnered with sponsors from throughout the area, including American Academy of Physician Assistants, the Mount Vernon Rotary Club, the West Springfield Rotary Club and many others to hold the event.
Bonnie Lilley started the program nine years ago when she was a social worker with Fairfax County Public Schools. Through her work within the school and community, she discovered there was a tremendous need to get needy children in school.
"We are doing this because there are many people who are working, [who] make too much money for Medicaid, but not enough to buy insurance for their families," Lilley said. "So, their children are unable to attend school because they cannot get physicals."
In the beginning, the program was only held in Springfield and now there are three events in the area: Springfield, Falls Church and Mount Vernon.
Lilley noted that the biggest plus is, not giving the physicals, but every year, representatives from various medical entities attend the event to provide each family with health care.
"We are able to find a medical home for almost all of the families here, that they did not know about previously," Lilley said. "When they leave here, they will have some sort of access to a medical doctor, so we don't get the same people back every year."
Jill Christiansen is a representative from INOVA Health System, who attended the event to help families find a medical home.
"Basically, we are here to help these families get health insurance, so we have the INOVA Partnership for Healthier Kids here," Christiansen said. "They are part of our community health division and they help families apply for Medicaid and State Children's Health Insurance Program, so families can have health insurance throughout the year for their child check ups and other health care needs.
"We also have Medical Care for Children Partnership and Anthem Healthkeepers Plus for families who don't qualify for Medicaid or SCHIP," Christiansen said.
Each child was taken to a series of 12 stations for their physicals. Stations included height, weight, blood pressure, blood tests and hearing and vision. Any immunizations needed were also performed during their physicals.
Children and their families were escorted throughout the process by volunteers from the community, including Soldiers from Fort Belvoir and the Northern Virginia Chapter of the Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club.
John Barfield is the president of the Northern Virginia Chapter of the Buffalo Soldiers and his fellow bikers saw the opportunity to come out to support and meet the children.
"We had this opportunity to come out and support the kids and we want to ensure that they are getting the necessary medical needs," Barfield said. "We are just happy to be able to come out here and be a part of this."
More than 100 volunteers came out in support of the event. Nurses and doctors from all over the area donated their time to give the children their physicals. Other volunteers helped out by registering children, recording heights and weights and conducting vision tests.
Virginia Delegate Kris Amundson also attended the event and she has been a part of the event every year since it started.
"It is just hugely important and one of the ways our community comes together to support children," Amundson said. "That is one of the terrific things about living in this part of Fairfax County, is that it still feels like a small town, because we try to do so many things for everyone's kids.
"Fort Belvoir has been a full partner in this endeavor for several years. One of the greatest things they do is providing interpreters and having people who are fluent in a number of languages, which are able to comfort children in their native language is very helpful," Amundson said.
In addition to providing the physicals and family health care, each child received a backpack with school supplies for the new school year and a bike helmet.