Belvoir Soldiers lent a helping hand last weekend in Fairfax County's Ninth Annual Back-to-School Physical Clinic.

About 25 servicemembers assisted an additional 65 civilian volunteers with administering free physicals for the upcoming school year.

The county's South County Health Center served as the location for 112 physicals.

The event was sponsored by the Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber Education Foundation, Inova Mount Vernon Hospital, Fairfax County Health Department and Inova Partnership for Healthier Kids.

Col. John Strycula, Fort Belvoir garrison commander; and Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Gabriel Berhane attended the event, as well as Headquarters Battalion Soldiers.

"Being considered as one of the leaders of Fort Belvoir, I think it's important to reach out and give back to the community," said Lt. Col. Dwayne Bowyer, battalion commander.

Soldiers and community volunteers escorted families through nine stations. Additional volunteers and physicians administered the different parts of a physical examination.

Children received stuff animals and books at the end of the examination.

"All of these things make kids smile," said Bowyer, who participated in the event for the first time. "It's very rewarding to see that we are giving three or four hours of our time to help kids get into school."
The back-to-school physicals program takes place in Fairfax, Springfield and Falls Church.

Retired social worker Bonnie Lilley is the program's chairperson. She helped start the original clinic in Springfield, Va., in 2000. The program's purpose is to help working parents, who can't afford medical insurance, to get their children eligible for school on time. Other parents are new to the area and have yet to find a doctor.

"I'm a social worker at heart," Lilley said. "I like helping people when I see a need."

Lilley said Belvoir Soldiers have been a consistent presence at the Fairfax clinic.

Lilley said the multilingual background of some of the Soldiers is very helpful with some families with foreign nationalities who attend the clinic.

"They're wonderful volunteers, absolutely fabulous," Lilley said.

One of the stations at the event was Partnership for Healthier Kids. This is an INOVA Health System initiative to help uninsured families find viable health-care options.

Jill Christiansen, program manager for the PHK, said representatives from the program gathered information from the families at the event, and will help them find health care through programs such as Medicaid and Virginia's children health insurance program, FAMIS, or Family Access to Medical Insurance.

"These are not charity cases. These are parents who are working hard," said Katy Fike, event coordinator. Fike has been working the event with Lilley for the last 10 years. She helped develop the program in Fairfax.

Fike believes it's important to help the children living in her community to live healthier and well-educated lives.

She said the back-to-school event "gives people a message: The people in this community care about you."