The Strong Kids Expo is coming to the Old Spanish Trail Arena

Representatives from local social service offices gathered in front of the Old Spanish Trail Arena ahead of this weekend's Strong Kids Expo. Left to right: Grand County Sheriff's Chief Deputy/ School Resource Officer Curt Brewer, Moab Community Charter School Director Emma Weiss, AmeriCorps VISTA Community Outreach Coordinator Maddy Fisk, Cindy Corbin of the Southeastern Utah District Health Department, Audrey Graham of the South East Early Intervention Program, Four Corners Community Behavioral Health Prevention Coordinator Tiffany Van Sickle and Geri Swift of Utah Foster Care. The expo, which will run all day on Saturday, Feb. 7, is free and open to the public. [Photo by Rudy Herndon / Moab Sun News]

If you're a parent, how can you make your family's life easier?

You can start by going to the Old Spanish Trail Arena on Saturday, Feb. 7 for the first-ever Strong Kids Expo, according to Four Corners Community Behavioral Health Prevention Coordinator Tiffany Van Sickle.

Once you're there, you can find out about all of the local resources that are available to you, and you'll have a chance to ask a range of family services professionals your toughest questions about parenting, Van Sickle said.

“It's for all ages, whether you have a newborn or a senior who's just about to graduate,” Van Sickle said. “There should be somebody there to answer your questions.”

The doors are set to open at 9:30 a.m., and throughout the day, panels of doctors, counselors, educators and health care professionals will be speaking about issues that are unique to each age group. Local family service groups and offices will also be setting up informational booths inside the arena, which is located at 3641 S. U.S. Highway 191.

Kids who attend the expo will be able to enjoy a host of fun-filled activities and displays, including a Grand County 4-H Club crafts booth, a magic show and a puppet table, where they can hold their own puppet shows. Adult supervision will be available for children over the age of 4.

Van Sickle and co-organizer Geri Swift of Utah Foster Care hope that parents and families find out how they can connect with the wealth of local resources to help them build stronger families.

“It's all these agencies working together to create a strong network that is supportive of families,” Van Sickle said.

The event grew out of narrower efforts to promote and celebrate National Drug Facts Week, which ran from Jan. 25-31. As Swift and Van Sickle began to share their ideas, the focus broadened, and by Swift's estimates, the list of participants swelled to include at least 20 agencies or offices.

“It's just amazing,” Swift said. “Once we got the word out there, everybody stepped forward.”

The list of expo participants now includes not only Four Corners Community Behavioral Health and Utah Foster Care, but Moab Regional Hospital, Moab Free Health Clinic, the Grand County School District, Moab Charter School and the Southeastern Utah Health Department, among others. Old Spanish Trail Arena is a key event partner, according to Swift: It offered the use of its facilities at no cost to the expo organizers.

In addition to the various panelists, the expo will feature keynote speakers from the Utah Department of Human Services and Utah Foster Care.

After the first of two keynote speeches, local experts will then break into four different panels that answer questions about individual age groups.

“Parents can ask any questions they want to ask,” Van Sickle said. “We'll have a table in back, and they can write their questions down anonymously.”

The first panel discussion for families of infants to kindergarteners is scheduled to start at 11 a.m. It will be followed by a noon panel that focuses on kindergarteners through third graders, and a 2 p.m. panel for parents of fourth through eighth graders. Last but not least, a panel for families with eighth- through 12th-graders will be held at 3:30 p.m.

Between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m., parents and their children will be able to meet the Grand County Sheriff's drug dog, and at noon, they can enjoy light lunches of free pizza and salad. From 1 to 3 p.m., technicians will be available to help families install child car seats, or to make sure that previously installed seats are properly set up.

During the day, booth hosts will also be giving away free mementos.

“Everyone will get a swag bag, and hopefully, all the different agencies will have some swag for them,” Van Sickle said.

Utah Foster Care Director of Foster Family Recruitment and keynote speaker Mike Hamblin called the event a great concept.

“Just as families are the building blocks of a community, children are the building blocks of that community's future. No matter our relationship with each child we come into contact with, we all have a vested interest in helping them to be strong,” Hamblin said. “As we strengthen and prepare children to overcome challenges they face, the results are evident for generations to come. There are resources available for parents who aren't sure how to do this, or just need a little support. Strong Kids Expo is a great starting place to find what resources and supports are available in the community and prepare for a brighter future.”

Four Corners Community Behavioral Health Executive Director Karen Dolan, meanwhile, urged residents to take advantage of the local help that's available to them.

“If you or someone you care about is struggling with behavioral health problems, please know that you are not alone and that treatment works,” Dolan said. “Four Corners and other local behavioral health treatment providers are here for you and your family. Please seek the help you need.”

For more information about the Strong Kids Expo, contact Tiffany Van Sickle at 435-259-6131, ext. 442, or email tvansickle@fourcorners.ws. If you would like to volunteer for the event, call Geri Swift at 435-260-1936.

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