UNC Asheville students host community health fair

UNC Asheville Lecturer Ellen Garrison tests the hand strength of freshman Aiden Whitney-Johnson at the 2013 Health Fair. (Photo by Jackie Starkey)

Local heath and wellness vendors gathered Thursday in the UNC Asheville Sherrill Center Thursday to celebrate the third annual Health Fair.

The student-run fair showcased a full floor of exhibits promoting community wellness for all age groups. This year’s offerings included more than 20 new vendors, both franchised businesses and local health staples.

“This event means a lot for the community and our partners in the local area,” said Laura Gardner, administrative assistant to the UNCA Health and Wellness Center, who housed this year’s fair. “There’s a strong focus on health in this community, so networking between health partners and patrons is crucial.”

Exhibits included Mission Hospital, Massage Envy, WNC Farmers Market, The Active Choice and Roots Organic Gourmet.

“This event provides a comfortable and zero-cost environment for people to find out about the wellness opportunities in this area,” said Health Fair event organizer Carolyn Bacchus.
Bacchus, a UNCA health and wellness promotion senior, networked to bring the largest number of vendors to date to this year’s fair. 

Scheduled during the lunch hour for accessibility, Bacchus said she hopes the fair serves as a breeding ground for greater awareness of personal health in the Asheville community.
“We want to make sure that vendors and attendees have time to talk to each other and get some one-on-one information shared,” Bacchus said.

Many vendors returned this year due to the success and popularity of the event.

“We’ve come every year to reach out to this community,” said Michael Harney, a prevention educator for the Western North Carolina AIDS Project. “If we make just one connection today, then it was well worth it.”

Wellness practitioners were joined this year by an influx in food vendors, promoting clean eating and wellness through organic and sustainable means. 

“This is a great opportunity for us. We can introduce local people to local food,” said Linda Franklin, a representative for the WNC Farmers Market. “There’s a great mixed demographic of students and older locals, so events like this help us make the public more aware that fresh, local food is available to them seven days a week.”

Attendee Martha Marshall said events like the Health Fair serve an important role in the Asheville community.

“When someone talks about health, I’m going to show up. It is our responsibility to be accountable for our wellbeing,” Marshall said. The threat of snow didn’t keep away patrons, according to vendors who said they had good foot traffic for the duration of the event.

Bacchus said however, that next year the UNCA Health Fair would likely be absorbed by an alternative health event.

“Right now the plan is that it will join into Well-a-Bration, the Center for Health and Wellness’ event every September,” Bacchus said.
Bacchus said the merger of the two events will hopefully increase both vendor and student participation.


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