Highway to Health Los Angeles Wows, Inspires and Rewards
The day could not have been more beautiful. The sunshine poured down on Mendez High School in Los Angeles, as balloon bouquets blew in the gentle winds. The gates to the school opened at noon, welcoming over five hundred students, parents, and the local community, to the second annual Highway to Health Los Angeles. While Jiu Jitsu, yoga, and tai chi demonstrations invited participants outside the school gym to get moving, a nut cracking booth sponsored by the California Walnut Board had kids competing for the “fastest cracking times.” Basketball play was commenced on the outdoor courts and inside the gym, twenty-two booths were set up and waiting.
As registrants were checked in, they were handed a “passport” to fill out as they passed through the various booth experiences. Student booths highlighted “mood and food, “unplug from tech,” and “the unhealthy world of sugary drinks,” and community services and screenings included a diabetes foot exam by Dr. Charles Blaine of Access Wound and Podiatry Care, a lung spirometry screening for asthma by Dr. Eli Hendel, a pulmonary and sleep specialist, chiropractic massage and advice by Dr. Suarez, as well as Sahaja Meditation, dental screenings by UCLA School of Dentistry students, USC Latino Equality Alliance, Los Angeles Department of Public Social Services, Latino Equality Alliance, Enki Youth and Family Services, California Center for Public Health Advocacy, and others.
Melissa’s Produce provided ingredients for the Teen Battle Chef competition, and they also brought their corporate Chef Marco Zapien, who showed attendees how to make simply and healthy infused waters. The key is allowing the ingredients (like strawberries and mint, oranges, cucumbers, and lemons) to sit in the water for at least 24 hours – YUM!! Other guest chefs included Ron Russell from Sun Cafe Organic, whipping up vegan raw tomato soup (so refreshing) and Vegan Moni, a community-based chef, social worker and advocate, whose raw creations had people clamoring for more as they learned ways to have healthier foods despite living in food desert communities like Boyle Heights, Los Angeles.
Of course, the big highlights of the festival were the Laker Girls, who supported the Zumba demonstrations and whose energetic dance routines captured the rapt attention of the attendees. Regional Coordinator Tyler Mar helped to open the event with Mendez High School principal, Mauro Bautista. Lakers Legend Norm Nixon, one of the event’s VIPs, spent quite a bit of time at the student booths and even got into the action of the a bit jiu jitsu demonstration. The Active Alliance liaison surprised us with a whole group of Laker players including Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and Wayne Ellington, and former Laker Ronny Turiaf. We were also gifted a slew of raffle prizes from the Lakers including:
- Jordan Clarkson Autographed Basketball
- Jordan Clarkson Autographed Jersey
- Julius Randle Autographed Basketball
- Julius Randle Autographed Jersey
- Jeremy Lin Autographed Basketball
- Ten (10) bags filled with Laker goodies
Additional raffle prizes included a generous gift certificate from Melissa’s Produce, an aromatherapy gift basket, and a special “healing” gift basket from Buena Vista Chiropractic. Of course, one of the best crowd pleasers was taking personal photos with the Laker Girls and the players!!
The event culminated with a fierce Teen Battle Chef competition, pitting Roosevelt High School and their Chicken Stuffed Pita against Mendez High School’s Walnut “Taco Meat” Lettuce Wraps. The two student presenters fielded questions by the six Laker player judges. Master of Ceremonies, the energetic and entertaining Adrian Marquez Garcia, announced Roosevelt High School the official winner of the cook-off.
MC Marquez was incredibly deft at interviewing some of the kids who attended the event, gently nudging them to highlight what they learned at the Highway to Health festival (“ to drink healthier drinks,” “to try new foods,” “to exercise and move more,” “to find time to be quiet and meditate”), and he facilitated a spontaneous discussion with the Laker players on stage, highlighting their health habits and nutrition and exercise practices. It was an afternoon of fun, delicious and healthy food samples, exuberant dance and user-friendly lifestyle lessons. Another HealthCorps successful Highway to Health event!!
A special thanks to: USANA Health Sciences, The California Endowment, New York City Council & Department of Health and mental Hygiene, The Chickasaw Nation, Desert HealthCare District, Continental Resources, California Walnut Board, Power Crunch, Melissa’s Produce, Sahaja Meditation, Family Cook Productions, Sanofi, and of course, the Active Alliance and Los Angeles Lakers.
Special mentions: Educational Program Supervisor, Southwest Region, Tyler Mar, and Mendez High School coordinator Felipe Valencia who both worked tirelessly to make this event a success, Roosevelt High School coordinator Saul Jimenez-Suarez, who helmed the Teen Battle Chef competition, and coordinator Lara Smith.
-Amy Hendel, PA/HealthCoach