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Family Fun Day offers week of healthy living events

January 13th | Jennifer Nu, The Arctic Sounder Print this article   Email this article  

For the fifth year in a row, Utqiaġvik will launch into a healthy new year energized by activities at Family Fun Day and the Week of Healthy Living sponsored by the Diabetes Prevention Program at the Samuel Simmonds Memorial Hospital.

"We want participants to come away with the idea that they already know how to make good healthy choices," explains Laura Thomas, SSMH diabetes program assistant and event coordinator. "These workshops and activities are meant to inspire a person to tap into their own capacity to be healthy throughout the year."

The week of healthy living begins on Jan. 12 with the screening of "That Sugar Film" at the Iñupiat Heritage and Language Center at 7 p.m. Healthy snacks will be provided, and the film will be followed by a panel discussion by local dietitians and dentists.

Friday night's 'Mindfulness in Art' event at the Heritage Center will feature David Pettibone, who will talk about painting and exploring subsistence whaling culture in Utqiaġvik as a former artist-in-residence at BASC (Barrow Arctic Science Consortium.) Pettibone will also talk about his current work in Southcentral Alaska called "A Year with a Tree."

Family Fun Day kicks off Jan. 14 with the indoor Fun Run/Walk at Ipalook Elementary School. Registration for the Fun Run/Walk begins at 10:30 a.m. and the run/walk officially begins at 11 a.m. Community members of all ages are invited to participate, including babies in strollers and kids.

Family Fun Day wellness activities will begin at noon and continue throughout the day until 4 p.m. This year's Family Fun Day will showcase Alaskan Grown vegetables with a 'Plant 101' station hosted by agronomist Jeff Smeenk and soil scientist Lorene Lynn. Participants can witness the life cycle of plants and then "harvest" their own vegetables provided by Kyla Byers from Arctic Harvest Deliveries, an Anchorage community supported agriculture (CSA) program for households and restaurants. Byers, Smeenk, and Lynn will be available to answer questions about what and how things grow in Alaska.

A tasting table will feature food demonstrations and samples of roasted root vegetables from Arctic Harvest Deliveries and sprout salads from the Anchorage-based Alaska Sprouts company. Family Fun Day folks can also jump onto this year's new bicycle-blender station to power their own smoothie. Traditional healer MaryJane Litchard and Dr. Allison Kelliher will host stations about traditional healing and the benefits of local edible and medicinal Alaskan plants.

This year's events will include many popular activities from past years, including an obstacle course, a special games area for kids, yoga, and Zumba! Participants can sign up for free chair massages from local massage therapists. Attendees can also check their numbers with free screenings for A1C blood glucose, blood pressure, and body composition.

Physical therapist Sandy Graham will host a station to strengthen balance. Licensed acupuncturist and nurse Rande Lucas will be returning to Barrow to introduce participants to the basic self-care exercises of Sotai, a Japanese healing method.

Because responding to stress in a healthy manner has been linked to improvements in physical health, such as lowering A1C levels, the event offers a number of mindfulness activities. Artist David Pettibone will host a 'Make Your Own Art Card' station to encourage stress reduction through creativity and watercolor painting.

The 'Stop and Listen' music room will be another place to focus on the present moment by experiencing sounds of musical instruments from around the world. The 'Let It Go' station will be a contemplative space to release burdens and begin the healing process. A pastoral counselor will be on hand to talk with participants if they so choose.

Saturday's events include free drop-off childcare. Parents can take their kids on a reading-walking adventure throughout the school as part of the StoryTRACKS activity sponsored by the North Slope Imagination Library.

Visiting artist Elissa Meyers of Blue Red Yellow Natural Dyehouse in Philadelphia, Pa., will lead a workshop on Jan. 15 from 2 to 5 p.m.. This final event for the Week of Healthy Living is a hands-on workshop that engages the power of plants as a source of natural dyes for textiles. Participants will use natural foods found at the local grocery store to dye their own silk scarf. All materials are provided, and the workshop is open to adults and youth ages 14 and older.

For more information about the Week of Healthy Living events and Family Fun Day in Utqiaġvik, contact Laura Thomas at 367-3755 or Angela Valdez at 852-9372.

Jennifer Nu is a freelance writer in Alaska. Contact her at


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