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Healthy Families hosts special day for youngsters, parents

December 04, 2005|By MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Five-year-old Bryanna was busy making a Christmas tree out of Froot Loops on Saturday when who should appear but Jolly Old Saint Nick at the Healthy Families Christmas party, sponsored by the Washington County Health Department and the Antietam Exchange Club.

"I've been good," Bryanna said as she waited her turn to sit on Santa's lap - the Froot Loops tree would just have to wait for her return.

Bryanna was one of dozens of children attending the special holiday party at Zion United Church of Christ.

"We do something every year for our families," said Mary McPherson, program manager for the Healthy Families program. "This is our sixth year."

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Before, the needs of the families were identified, then filled with gifts, supplies and other items that were distributed to them in their homes. A party seemed like a more festive way to achieve the same goals, McPherson said.

Throughout the year, members of the Healthy Families staff work on parenting skills and lending whatever support families might need.

"What we can't provide, we refer them to agencies that can help them," McPherson said.

Bryanna's mom, Casey, brought both of her daughters to the event. She said they all were having a good time.

"It's a really nice opportunity for the kids," Casey said.

A couple of tables away, Mary and Doug came with their 2-month-old son, Ethan, who slept through most of the event.

"It's a chance to interact with others who have babies," said Mary, who said Ethan is her first, and she has been grateful for the support she has gotten from the Healthy Families program.

Ethan was awake long enough to have his picture taken with Santa.

"This year, though, his mom was doing all the crafts," Doug said.

Many of the children - ranging in age from infancy to 5 years old - eagerly sought out Santa's lap. Others took one look at the bearded icon and screamed at the top of their lungs.

Volunteers from the health department joined with members of the Antietam Exchange Club to serve hot dogs, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chips, pretzels and beverages to all who attended.

"This year, we are targeting very young children," said Arthur Schneider, a member of the Antietam Exchange Club. "There are about 65 kids, ages 5 and younger, in the Healthy Families program."

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