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Local News

McHenry County prepares kids for new school year

CRYSTAL LAKE — Five-year-old Lydia Fletcher of Woodstock jumped wildly Wednesday afternoon, brandishing multicolored fabric in the air — an exercise meant to show how movement can help develop a child's brain.

The exercise was part of a booth for 4-C: Community Coordinated Child Care, one exhibit among over 40 participating in the 24th annual McHenry County Children's Health and Safety Fair.

Organized by the Children's Fair Coalition — a group with members from 17 county entities — the fair theme this year was "The Path to Health and Safety."

It offered free school supplies, low-cost school physicals, free dental screenings, plus a plethora of hands-on activities for kids throughout the county.

"We came today for the clinic," said Lydia's mom, Felicia Fletcher. "We went to the dentist, and came to get school supplies and this great information."

Fair chairperson Mary Reid said the event started as a way to provide low-cost health services to kids before the school year started.

"It gave them an opportunity to get a low-cost physical taken care of, their immunizations, and we also have free dental screenings going on," Reid said. "They can come and take care of their school health needs in one place and not have it break the bank. … Then they're also getting health and safety education, too."

Held at McHenry County College the event featured a wide range of information provided by entities including McHenry County Sheriff's Department, Sage YMCA and Centegra Health Systems.

A booth titled Chatter Girls was the first of its kind for vendor Alicia Marcos Birong, executive life coach at Guided Choices, 820 E. Terra Cotta Ave, suite 145 in Crystal Lake.

The Chatter Girls self-esteem program for girls 8 through 13 is in its second year, and the fair seemed like a good way to spread the word, Birong said.

"The program aims to help girls deal with the social issues that are starting earlier and earlier," Birong said. "… [Being at the fair has] been a great way to get the information out."

Felicia and Lydia, who is entering kindergarten this year, stopped by Birong's booth after the short dancing exercise.

Before letting her bounce off to the next stand, Birong took Lydia's hand and painted her thumbnail bright blue.

"If someone asks why your nail is blue, tell them it's because you don't like bullying," Birong said, adding it was one of several social issues the program covers.

Over 1,200 children and adults visited the fair last year, according to a news release from the McHenry County Health Department.

Reid said attendance was actually lower than usual last year because of the weather, plus construction at the college.

Given Wednesday's bright skies and filled parking lot, Reid said attendance should be up.

"So far it's been pretty steady, so I'm thinking we're back up from last year," Reid said.

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