Colette Ernst, Sby6 Coordinator
On September 16 Success by Six and Children First hosted a Children’s Health and Safety Fair at the Tumbler Ridge Community Centre. In attendance were 24 organizations from Dawson Creek, Fort St. John, Tumbler Ridge and beyond. Each table offered parents resources, information and in some cases referrals while their children had an opportunity to engage in a craft or game related to that service. For over two hours the room was a buzz with activity and chatter as parents made their way along the colourful rows of tables collecting stickers for their child to get a prize, and learning of what the South Peace and Tumbler Ridge has to offer their children.
Success by Six and Children First have been working to help parents have better access to resources and health professionals, like those attending this health fair, for the last 3 years and have grown the event to include fitness and safety as well as mental and physical health information.
In 2014 the provincial government launched a new Provincial Office for the Early Years with the focus on the needs of families with children up to age six. The mandate is to help ensure children have easy access to a range of early-years services no matter where they live in B.C. The Tumbler Ridge Health Fair is one of the ways that Success by Six and Children’s First is working to meet this mandate and reach our goal of having children develop to their full potential.
This year’s event included five new groups: Families learned about Bear Safety from WildSafeBC – British Columbia Conservation Foundation, kids had hand washing lessons thanks to Northern Health, learned about Education Savings Plans with the Canadian Scholarship Trust Foundation, tried out gymnastics and got moving thanks to Chantal Bowerman and met our new Child and Youth Mental Health team.
Our hardworking Early Childhood Educators —Tumbler Ridge Public Library, Tumbler Ridge Children Centre Society, AlphaBits Crawl and StrongStart— provided families with information on their programs. The Tumbler Ridge Aquatic Centre, Lakeview Credit Union, Tumbler Ridge Dental Services, Tumbler Ridge Health Unit, the RCMP hosting Child Find BC, Linda LaRocque at the registration table and Rita Henderson at the face painting booth completed the Tumbler Ridge groups and all worked tirelessly to engage the children and make everyone feel special.
From Dawson Creek, Northern Health came in to offer dental and pubic health information, the Child Developmental Centre, Child Care Resource and Referral and Supported Child Development from the South Peace Community Resources Society and Axis Family Resources gave out information on early years growth and development, and Johanna Kunz of South Peace Success by Six came out to lend a hand wherever needed. From Fort St. John Northern Health sent out two team members —Audiology and Environmental Health. Because these groups took time to attend, parents had the opportunity to speak to specialists that they would normally have to drive to meet.
There were 37 children six and under who attended this year with one or more parent ranging from three months to four years with five new to Tumbler Ridge this year. Of this group 15 were preschool age, 15 children were aged one to three and eight were infants under the age of one. This was an increase in children from last year – and in speaking with Julie Tobin and Chris Norbury this is not surprising. “We’ve got 30 kids in Kindergarten already this year and it’s only September” Julie says “ There are new people moving in and they all have young families”. This summer the Tumbler Ridge Public Library hosted a Summer Reading Club where over 50 children under the age of six signed up in Tumbler Ridge. “This was the largest age group to participate” Chris explained when discussing the program.
It wasn’t only the parents who gained resources or the attending kids who benefited from this event either. Success by Six also works to build connections and collaborations between groups, sharing and pooling resources to build our community by using a team approach to help families. Many of the groups had a chance to meet, share info and create new opportunities for Tumbler Ridge. I expect to see WildSafeBC visit the children’s programs over the next month, increased information about Child Mental Health available to families at these programs as well as other teams form to support our community in the near future.
This collaborative spirit is what makes Tumbler Ridge an inspiring place and a wonderful place to raise children. Recently Success by Six was part of the United Way Fire Truck Pull and I had a chance to speak to the United Way rep out of Fort St. John. She shared that Tumbler Ridge is inspiring her and other northern communities because of our indomitable spirit. We are pulling together, supporting each other and building upon our strengths. We are the little town that can, and I am honoured to be a part of it.