With summer break quickly coming to a close for several Northwest students, parents and kids have to face the realities that the beginning of the school year brings.

Yes, it's that time again, when parents use any method possible to get their kids to the doctor to come face to face with those dreaded needles.

For most kids, shots can be the most unpleasant reminder that school is about to start and the carefree days of summer fun are over.

But this year, representatives from the Marana Unified School District and the Marana Health Center hope they can actually make getting shots a somewhat fun experience.

The two organizations will be co-sponsoring the first Marana Care Fair from 8 a.m. to noon Aug. 17 at Coyote Trails Elementary School, 8000 N. Silverbell Road.

The fair is free and will provide such necessary services as vision and hearing screening and an immunization clinic, co-sponsored by the Pima County Health Department, where children will be getting all of the necessary shots to enroll in school, such as measles, mumps, rubella and tetanus. The immunization clinic will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

But after the pain of getting shots, event organizers hope that pain will soon be forgotten as kids enjoy such activities as games and a jumping castle while parents get information about health care options for their children.

"We're trying to do it in a fun way because a lot of the population doesn't have (information about health care), especially in the rural areas like Marana," said Justin Torbert, business office manager for the Marana Health Center. "We're trying to draw that part of the population into one place."

Torbert said in addition to realizing the need in the community for such an event, it is also a requirement for a federal grant that Ora Mae Harn, former director of the health center, applied for and received last year. In her time as director, Harn has raised thousands of dollars for the center, expanding it from a trailer to its current 5,000 square-foot facility. Harn, who is now the associate director of the health center, was out of town and unavailable for comment.

Kim Holaway, MUSD's student services director, said that, despite the grant, the fair is something the school district and the health center have wanted to do for a long time.

"It's kind of something I wanted to do for the community and something Ora Mae Harn wanted to do too, and I mentioned something about it to her in April and we decided to pool our resources within our respective organizations, and that's just kind of how we got started," she said. "I think we recognize the necessity for kids to come to school and be healthy in order to achieve academically. I think we know that children need to be healthy in order to learn."

Torbert said people in the community often don't have access to information about healthcare, especially people who live in Marana's more rural areas, despite all of the sources for information that are out there.

Holaway added that families that have moved have often lost track of their immunization records and some families simply can't afford quality health care.

In addition to the immunization clinic, a podiatrist will talk to parents and kids about how to prevent injuries, and volunteers will also be doing cholesterol screening and body fat tests.

"We want to provide parents and kids with information to make healthy decisions," Holaway said.

The 75 volunteers include members of a Marana Rotary Club, nurses from the school district and health center and several Marana High School students.

There will also be more than 40 different agencies giving out information to families, including Northwest Fire/Rescue District, KidsCare health insurance and Healthy Kids Dental. Other major sponsors include Trico Electric Cooperative and the Pima County Health Department.

"Since this is the first year, we're really excited that we've had so many participants," Holaway said. "There really isn't anything like this in our community on the Northwest side. I think a lot of organizations recognize the need to be out in the community and this provides them an avenue to do that."

Holaway said she hopes attendance will exceed 1,000 people. For more information, contact the Marana Health Center at 682-4111 or the Marana Unified School District at 616-4509.

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