Hours before the Texas Children’s Health Plan (TCHP) back to school event kicked off, a line was forming in Almeda Mall, the site of this year’s biggest event with 8,000 in attendance. With the promise of backpacks, school supplies, information on community resources and vaccines for students going back to school, parents were eager to participate.
“It’s a very rewarding event for us to bring a little relief to these families as they struggle to provide their children with everything they need to go back to the classroom,” said Veronica Arzayus, manager of community relations. “The parents are so grateful for something as simple as a backpack. For these families, it’s one less thing to worry about as the school year starts.”
According to an annual survey of back to school costs, on average, it could cost close to $200 to purchase the needed supplies for an elementary student to head to the classroom. That number jumps to nearly $400 for high school aged students. With more than half of the public school children living in poverty, these costs can be nearly impossible for some families to bear. The TCHP back to school event handed out 5,000 backpacks to the families present. The mobile immunization unit was there to administer about 130 vaccines, and the City of Houston Bureau of Oral Health was on hand to administer teeth cleanings, sealants and 115 dental screenings.
“We chose the Almeda Mall location to gage the community’s interest and acknowledgement of Texas Children’s,” Arzayus said. “That area is home to a lot of Health Plan members, but we were also able to attract a lot of non-members who benefitted from the vaccines, screenings and information we provided in conjunction with our community partners.”
Along with a kid DJ, Dynamo players and other entertainment, 40 non profits joined Texas Children’s to give out other school supplies and information about resources available throughout the community to assist their families.
Arzayus said attendance grows every year and the group knows it’s fulfilling a need for the community that not only assists the families, but ensures they receive information to help keep their children healthy throughout the school year.