FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - Even with the unseasonably warm weather, over 1,400 princesses, super heroes, pirates and skeletons flooded through the doors of Bassett Army Community Hospital Oct. 31 for the sixth official 'Boo to the Flu' Halloween event.
While it is only the sixth official year of the event, the annual trick-or-treating event started 9 years ago as a Family Readiness Group activity for Medical Department Activity -- Alaska staff and family members. As staff members began inviting friends the event grew until it was opened up to the public in 2011.
Most events offered by MEDDAC-AK offer a little bit of fun with the majority of the emphasis being on health education, but Boo to the Flu is organized to do just the opposite. While flu vaccines were given to 84 beneficiaries during the event, trick-or-treating, a haunted house and a place to have a fun, warm community gathering was the focus of the event.
This was the first year of experiencing the event for lead organizers Capt. Jennifer Keim, a registered nurse and Cpt. Crystal Coyle, clinical staff nurse both assigned to the maternal newborn unit, but Keim says the event was everything she was told it would be.
"I was amazed at the success of my first Boo to the Flu," said Keim. "Both Capt Coyle and I come from Brook Army Medical Center, a very large facility, and it was incredible to see MEDDAC-AK come together to put on such a large, amazing event for our small community."
In the weeks leading up to the event, staff members donated bags of candy, and organized section themes, decorating their respective areas of the hospital in themes such as Legos, Grease, and Smurfs. For the second year in a row, 3-21 Infantry Regiment donated candy to help the cause.
With the donations from 3-21 and MEDDAC-AK staff members, over 550 bags of candy were used during the event. In addition to the candy, small toys, toothbrushes, pencils and coloring books were offered to guests.
This year's event provided guests with the chance to interact with the staff and the section themes.
The pharmacy staff set up a drive-in movie complete with cardboard cars large enough to sit in and a movie playing on a sheet in the waiting room. Not to be outdone, radiology provided guests with the opportunity to take photos in a cardboard car and the 'shake shack' from the movie grease.
Seeing 1,400 people through the doors in two hours is no easy task and it took the work of many volunteers to make it happen. About 75 volunteers doing tasks such as handing out candy, security and crowd control worked the event.
"This year's event was very well organized and everyone seemed to be having a wonderful time," said Al Claxton, physical security specialist and team lead for the event's security detail. "I am always delighted to see the kids' faces and smiles as they venture from station to station."
Claxton wasn't the only who thought the event went well.
"It was a fun and well thought out event," said Carly Siler, wife of Staff. Sgt. Christopher Siler with 3-21 Infantry Regiment. "The staff clearly worked very hard to make it special. We really appreciated that they catered to all age groups, especially with the haunted house. It was fun to have a 'not scary' version for the little ones to enjoy."
Keim and Coyle are both proud of the success of the event for guests.
"Overall, I think the event was a huge success; Capt Coyle and I have received nothing but positive feedback," said Keim. "Being in the military, and especially in an environment like interior Alaska, it's important that the community feel as though they have a safe, comfortable place they can come together and I think MEDDAC-AK provided just that."