By Dillon Thomas

GREELEY, Colo. (CBS4) – Thousands of northern Colorado children will start the 2021-2022 school year with new backpacks, school supplies and clear health thanks to Greeley Evans School District Six. The district partnered with Banner Health, the Latino Coalition of Weld County and several other local organizations to make sure all students had free access to medical checks and school supplies before the start of the new semester.

(credit: CBS)

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Thousands lined the sidewalks of the Island Grove complex in Northern Greeley on Saturday for the free family-friendly event. Those who attended were given the opportunity to have their children receive medical checks, annual sports physicals, food, school supplies, vaccinations and more all free of cost.
“Over the last 16 months with this pandemic, many of us didn’t pay attention to our own health,” said Deirdre Pilch, Superintendent of the district.

Many families didn’t go to the doctor while their children were learning from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. For thousands the free event on Saturday was the first time their kids were given a health checkup in years.

Katherine Daniels brought her son, Connor, to the event. She said the free services reassured her, knowing her teenager will be able to start the school year on a healthy note.

“Sometimes it is really hard to get into doctor’s appointments,” Daniels told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas. “For people that may not be able to afford going to a doctor’s appointment, (the free services are) really nice.”

Connor is looking forward to playing football for the first time this school year. Getting a free sports physical cleared him for play.

“I wanted to play football for so long. But, because of last year with COVID you couldn’t play,” Connor said.

Banner Health nurses and doctors checked Connor’s breathing and more. They also gave him different workouts and tips free of charge so that he can be a strong and health student athlete.

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Connor was also one of hundreds who got their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccination at the event. Anyone over the age of 12 at the event was invited to get their vaccination courtesy the Latino Coalition of Weld County.

Walmart offered every person who got their vaccination a $100 gift card to purchase groceries with. One family of seven walked away with $700 in gift cards.

“It was really easy. It didn’t hurt. It was really simple,” Connor said.

Thanks to a list of donors and sponsors, the Greeley Evans school district was able to give away 5,000 backpacks which were filled with school supplies. Some of the backpacks were stuffed with hidden surprises and prizes as well.

“We’re easily going to reach 10,000 people today,” Pilch said. “That’s a really big deal with what all families have been through in the last 16 months.”

Some people were even given free dental screenings while in attendance.

Daniels said she loved that many people from many backgrounds were able to prioritize the health of their families thanks to Banner Health and the school district.

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“It is something that is really important for the community, and it is actually a really fun event,” Daniels said.

Dillon Thomas