BRISTOL - The 3rd Annual Bristol Family Health & Wellness Expo Saturday had information and resources to keep everyone healthy: mothers, fathers, children, seniors and even dogs.
Presented by the Bristol Chamber of Commerce, the expo at Bristol Eastern High School had over 81 vendors offering a wealth of information on health.
“It’s become very popular,” said Cindy Bombard, president and CEO of the chamber. “We’ve had a variety of exhibitors - from hospitals to pet care. Even the state police are here.”
“It’s a little bit of everything,” she added. “It’s one-stop shopping for our residents.”
Groups, like BEST 4 Bristol, were excited to share what they do for the community.
“We’re trying to reduce rates of substance abuse,” said Juan Calderon of BEST 4 Bristol. BEST stands for Bristol Eliminating Substance Abuse Together. They also focus on educating the public and have partnered with the mayor’s task force on the opioid crisis.
The group had a wheel that visitors could spin. After spinning and landing on a certain category, like marijuana or alcohol, visitors would answer a question from that category. They would then get a raffle ticket to enter to win a lockbox where prescription drugs can be safely stored away from children and teens.
There was also a multitude of health care providers from cancer prevention to gynecology.
“We screen women who may be at risk for certain types of cancers,” said Meghan Burgess, APRN and director of screening and preventative services at Midstate Radiology Associates.
In addition to regular radiology services, Midstate also has on-site genetic testing.
“What sets us apart is that we have this genetics program,” Burgess said. “The result of their testing can really impact their screening.”
Each patient’s treatment is tailored to the results of his or her genetic screening, Burgess said.
Beth Paradis also likes providing personalized care. Paradis is a medical assistant for Dr. Kamakshi Vemareddy of Bristol Hospital Multi-Specialty group’s OBGYN department. Paradis loves her job because she “carries women through their pregnancy journey.” She keeps expecting mothers healthy and then teaches them how to keep their babies healthy.
Paradis also did free oxygen level screenings. And around the corner, Bristol Hospital was doing free blood pressure screenings.
There were not only hospitals, but also businesses and groups aimed at keeping people fit, like School Street Yoga and Fitness.
“We teach a variety of yoga classes, barre, Zumba, and other fitness,” said owner Mary Franco. “We’re a nice little community space.”
Franco said that the goal is for people to “leave feeling better than when they came in.”
Shepard Meadows Therapeutic Riding Center also provides people, both able-bodied and disabled, a way to keep fit and achieve their goals.
Liz Lefrancois said their oldest rider is in his 80s.
“We have a variety of programs,” she added. The center does field trips for schools, community outreach, individual lessons, workshops, and classes.
“Everyone has their own goals they’re looking to achieve. It (riding) helps to encourage trust, bonding,” said Emily Eschner, program coordinator and instructor for the center. “Each riding experience is catered to each rider.”
Riding also encourages confidence and responsibility, she added.
Credit unions present at the expo addressed another kind of wellness: financial wellness.
“For us, our whole thing is reducing stress through finances,” said Will Van Wig, regional business development officer for Corporate America Family Credit Union. “Stress has such an impact on your health.”
“We do a lot of education that addresses daily spending habits,” he said. The credit union helps people get financially stable and prepares them so they have money for emergencies.
There were not only great resources for humans, but also for man’s best friend.
“We do everything dog,” said Bob Carbonell, owner of the Woof Pack. And he means everything, from boarding and training to grooming and nutrition to birthday parties and photo shoots.
“We try to do what people are looking for because it can be challenging to own dogs,” he added. His facility is 13,000 square feet and has a staff of about 20.
“We never cage or kennel dogs-that’s our difference,” he said.
One major part of staying healthy, for both humans and dogs, is staying safe.
State police educated people about being safe while driving, riding bicycles, traveling and even while sitting at home.
“We’re just reminding people to be safe out there, and to protect themselves,” said Trooper First Class Kelly Grant.
Her best piece of safety advice?
“Being aware of your surroundings,” she said.
The event was sponsored by Bristol Hospital, Covanta Energy, Bristol All Heart, Hartford HealthCare and The Ultimate Companies.
Michelle Jalbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.