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Tribalwide fairs promote health and fitness

With his arms and bags loaded with giveaways from the Brighton health and wellness fair, Iverson Huggins picks up some hand sanitizer to add to his collection. (Photo Beverly Bidney)

After a two-year pandemic delay, the Seminole Health and Human Services Department (HHS) hosted health and wellness fairs on reservations in July to help tribal communities live a healthier life.

Hundreds of tribal members attended the fairs in Big Cypress, Brighton, Hollywood and Immokalee. About 20 tribal departments and vendors set up shop in the Florida Seminole Veterans Building on July 12. Tables filled with information, food samples and other giveaways were staffed by department representatives or health professionals.

Tribal member Albert Snow stopped at the pharmacy booth, where he got some Covid-19 testing kits.

“I come out here every year,” said Snow, of Brighton. “I like to see what else I can learn. I’m healthy, except for my diabetes. I’m going to get my A1C checked.”

A1C is used to monitor sugar levels in people who have diabetes.

Everyone who entered the health and wellness fair received a health passport which listed each booth. As participants engaged with a booth, the passport was signed by the vendor. The passports were an effective way to encourage attendees speak to the staffers manning the booths and get the information offered. Bags were provided for swag, such as sunscreen, healthy snacks and toys, which was generously handed out at each booth.

Once the passports were filled up and returned to the HHS’s sign in table, the attendees were entered into raffles for prizes and given a ticket for lunch at a food truck.

Another important aspect of the wellness fairs was a survey tribal members filled out to help the HHS plan for the coming year. The needs assessment survey is done every two years.

“We want to learn about their interests and have more activities that support them,” Suzanne Davis, integrative health director, said. “We want to incorporate traditions and culture into our program. We base our activities on what tribal members want.”

The theme of the health and wellness fairs all had a fun, beachy vibe and were decorated with colorful flowers and summery props.

“The decorations were all held from the 2020 fairs,” Davis said. “The tribe was shut down on the same day the Big Cypress fair was held. We were all lined up and ready to go that day.”

The decorations were taken out of storage and used two years later.

“The theme is pretty and refreshing,” said Barbara Boling, Brighton HHS education coordinator. “We were all ready for that.”

With plenty of activities aimed at them, kids from the preschool and Boys & Girls Clubs had fun during the health and wellness fair. In addition to making their own smoothies by riding a stationary bike, the kids posed for photos with props in a photo booth, tasted a few treats and chose toys from baskets at many of the booths.

Iverson Huggins, 8, said he went at “super speed” to make a smoothie, which he enjoyed after it was sufficiently mixed in the blender attached to the stationary bike. A face painter inside kept the kids’ attention while a climbing wall and surfing themed bouncy ride was outdoors for the kids to enjoy. At the Immokalee fair, the face painter brought giant bubbles, which the kids chased down gleefully.

Seminole Fire Rescue in Immokalee brought an electronic fire on a video monitor, which could only be put out with an actual fire extinguisher retrofitted to put out the fire on the screen. Kids lined up to give it a try.

Albert Snow visits the pharmacy booth at the Brighton health and wellness fair July 12. (Photo Beverly Bidney)
Members of the Brighton Boy & Girls Clubs get cool shades and other goodies at the HHS booth. (Photo Beverly Bidney)
Brighton Fire Rescue Lt. Kevin Pinkerton signs off on Samuel Slocum’s health passport, indicating he received the information offered at the Fire Rescue booth and will be entered into a raffle for prizes. (Photo Beverly Bidney)
Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at