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California City Solutions: Rancho Cordova Helps Build Largest Free Kids Health Event in the Sacramento Region

December 18, 2014
This story is part of an ongoing series featuring Helen Putnam Award entries.
 
The 2014 entries are available on the League’s website as a resource for cities in a searchable database called California City Solutions. Rancho Cordova’s Kids Day in the Park was submitted in 2014 for the Health and Wellness Programs award category.
 
Rancho-Cordova-Kids-Day-Brochure.jpgBuilding a large comprehensive health resource fair does not happen overnight, but it does take a great deal of city involvement and partnership to make it successful. With more than 100 health and wellness providers participating each year, the city of Rancho Cordova’s Kids Day in the Park celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2014. Over the years it has evolved into the largest free event of its kind in the Sacramento region. The city formed a partnership with a unique local nonprofit to organize the annual event which provides healthy lifestyle exhibits, an opportunity to access a variety of public resources at one site and encourages residents to seek healthy solutions for their families.
 
Kids Day in the Park began in a small neighborhood park and catered to the city’s lowest income families. The annual event eventually grew and moved to a larger, more centralized park to better accommodate more participants and partners. Rancho-Cordova-Kids-Day-at-the-Park.jpgThe event is organized by the Cordova Community Council (CCC), a nonprofit umbrella organization in Rancho Cordova. CCC is dedicated to community capacity-building, volunteer management, and promoting citywide events and gatherings that form threads woven into the basic fabric of living and playing in the city.
 
When the city incorporated in 2003, it faced a challenge to efficiently leverage public resources in ways that would multiply the benefits to the community. To do this, Rancho Cordova needed to be entrepreneurial in providing vital services to the community by acting as brokers, facilitators, catalysts and educators versus the traditional government model of raising taxes and/or cutting Rancho-Cordova-Kids-Bubbles.jpgspending.
 
By 2006, CCC’s fate hinged on its ability to transform itself into a professionally managed, sustainable organization that could continue to bring Kids Day in the Park, among other special events, to thousands of children each year. Two thirds of the children who attend each year come from underserved or low income families. The city realized the benefit of the continued success of this event however didn’t have services of its own to dedicate a mission to bring health, wellness and fun to the children of the community.
 
Rancho Cordova decided to fund a grant program to financially stabilize CCC and establish itself as a major partner to ensure longevity of many prized community Rancho-Cordova-Kids-Planting-Station.jpgcontributions, including Kids Day in the Park. The city’s current annual grant amount to CCC covers more than 50 events and services, and amounts to approximately $6 annually for each Rancho Cordova resident. The city made a commitment to help the community by partnering with local agencies to provide adequate tools to residents in an effort to shift health responsibilities into their own hands. The city’s financial support helps ensure the sustainability of events like Kids Day in the Park.
 
The emphasis of resources is tremendous for this health fair as activities are driven by volunteers. Anywhere from 5,000 to 7,000 children and their parents are entertained, screened and educated in ways to help answer questions such as:
  • Is my child ready to begin school?Rancho-Cordova-Families-Having-Fun.jpg
  • Is my child’s eyesight or hearing within healthy ranges?
  • What immunizations are needed for my child, and where can I get them?
  • Where can I learn to be a better parent?
  • Can you teach my child to swim?
  • Where can I get a bike helmet?
  • What education options do I have?
  • My family needs help – where can we get it?
The Bike RodeRancho-Cordova-Bike-Race.jpgo is one inspiring activity during kids day. Managed by the Rancho Cordova Police Activities League (PAL), the local police officers provide children with some of their first bike safety training. If they successfully complete the rodeo, they are entered into a drawing for a bicycle, with 100 bicycles being raffled away each year. As many as 500 children in the Rancho Cordova community also receive free new bike helmets at kids day in a mutually beneficial partnership between PAL and the medical community.
 
In addition to the city, resource partners include the Cordova Recreation and Park District, Kaiser Permanente, Sacramento County Division of Public Health, Sacramento Division of Behavioral Health, First 5 Sacramento, Smile Keepers, Dignity Health, U.C. Davis, local physicians, dentists, nurses, educators and more. The event hosts more than 100 exhibitors, ranging from state agencies to service organizations, nonprofits, private businesses, Boy Scout Troops, sororities and others.
 
Rancho-Cordova-Kids-Day-Look-What-I-Did.jpgKids Day in the Park has received many awards and much recognition for the wealth of resources it offers to a diverse group of residents and families. It was named the showcase event several years running for Children’s National Mental Health Awareness Day in an effort to present mental health services for children in an atmosphere that avoids negative stereotyping. The event was also honored by the Sierra Sacramento Valley Medical Society with the 2013 Medical Community Service Award in recognition for providing health and wellness education to children in the community.
 
Folsom Cordova Unified School District selected Kids Day in the Park as the signature Rancho Cordova event presenting options for parents and their children, exposing them to programs on school readiness, afterschool and student care programs and the Academy for Advanced Learning. It also educates them on the Communities and Health Professionals Together (CHPT) program, Junior Kindergarten, health and tobacco education, State and Federal preschool options, Learning Express (services for homeless students), and the Parent Engagement Project.Rancho-Cordova-Healthy-All-Over.jpg
 
Health resource fairs are not a new idea, but Rancho Cordova’s solution is a fresh take on preserving a valuable community asset for health and wellness that demonstrates a variety of resources in one convenient and fun environment. The city provides residents the opportunity to participate in tackling issues and strengthening solutions together, a model that can easily be replicated in other communities. Kids Day in the Park is only one example assisting in making bright and healthy futures to one of the community’s most vulnerable populations.


 
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