For a long time now the goal of Human Resources department at Keene State College has been to acknowledge hard working employees of KSC and to give them ideas for how to deal with stress while making healthy choices in their lives. Senior Human Resources Assistant Karyn Kaminski and Assistant Director Karen Crawford took another step towards accomplishing that goal on Thursday, April 18, with a Wellness Fair that ran alongside the college’s regularly scheduled Healthy Returns event.
Healthy Returns is a program sponsored by University System of N.H. Human Resources and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. According to its website, the goal of the program is to educate people, helping them set goals for a healthier lifestyle with a focus on five important health areas: Blood Pressure Control, Weight Management, Cholesterol Management, Glucose Management and Smoking Cessation.
Kaminski said that the college has participated in Healthy Returns for years now, hosting an event in the fall and the spring. However, this is the first year for adding the accompanying Wellness Fair as Kaminski thought it might “bring in more people and also once they go to Healthy Returns and they start learning about their numbers and so forth, then they can go and learn different stretching techniques or learn how to make a healthy snack or get a massage.” As an untested event, Crawford clarified that this year’s Wellness Fair was intentionally small, focusing on just a handful of things that they “thought employees would like to help really relieve stress and focus in on their own health.”
This spring Wellness Fair was a miniature version of the fair held in October, called the Personal Services and Personal Benefits Fair, where Kaminski said 35-40 community-based vendors come to the college ranging from financial consultants to fitness facilities. The Wellness Fair has a tighter focus, Kaminski said, really honing in on “wellness and tips for creating a healthy lifestyle for yourself.”
Crawford explained that the Wellness Fair and Healthy Returns are both connected to “Healthy KSC,” an initiative that was launched in February of 2012 and received two years of funding from trustees to help develop wellness programs for KSC. While Healthy Returns utilized the Mountain View Room of the Young Student Center, the Wellness Fair took over rooms 307, 308,and 309. Room 307 featured massages by Mary Beth Given of Massage Given on Marlboro Street.
Given said that a regular massage is important because “It helps with the stress factor. All that circulation that goes through your whole body. It’s really important to do that. Lower your blood pressure, lower your stress.” Given was contacted for the Wellness Fair because she has participated in other events for the college.
One door over, in room 308, students from the Exercise Leadership Practicum course at KSC showed attendees different ways to stretch their muscles. Students from the class were recruited by their professor, Christine Miles, and participated in shifts to cover the entire event. Tyler Penn, a senior at KSC, explained the importance of regular stretching as “it improves mobility. A lot of people sit in their everyday life. So when you’re at a desk job certain things that aren’t meant to lengthen and shorten start to lengthen and shorten.”
Ken Sikes, also a senior at KSC, said that events like this help because “It’s not at everybody’s forefront of their mind, thinking, ‘I’ve got to stretch today so ten years from now I can still get things from the top shelf.’ They don’t think about that. But if they get exposed to things like this it’s going to make them more aware and maybe make them change their lifestyle.”
In room 309, three Dietetic Interns from KSC—Carly Lauraine, Jacylin Lee, and Colleen Lynch–staffed a “Healthy Snacking” table. Lee explained, “The point we wanted to get across is that snacking is okay. There’s plenty of healthy options and it just helps prevent being starving and overeating later.”
A few of those healthy options were free for attendees to sample, including whole grain pretzels, homemade hummus and ingredients to create your own trail mix with recommended portions. Lauraine said events like these were important because “there’s not really a lot of marketing around healthy foods right now.”
Also in room 309 was a table where college employees could learn about the health programs that Harvard Pilgrim offers. Lauren Alford, who manages wellness connection benefits for employees, staffed this table and answered any questions attendees had about the various programs. Of the event as a whole Alford said, “I think it’s really good for them to be able to come and they really cover a gauntlet of topics here. They do biometric screening. They also learn about some of their health insurance benefits working through the university that help further on the information they learned from biometric.”
Jennifer Drake-Deese said, “It’s great. It’s good to go in and know what your numbers are. It makes you keep track of them. And particularly going from the fall to the spring, making sure everything stays the same.”
Laura Mielke said, “It’s nice to have this fair piece where you learn about the benefits of your health care and insurance” adding that the make-your-own-trail-mix was “fantastic.” Rick Rumba, from WorkWISE NH, added, “It just keeps you on track with trying to do things to keep yourself healthy.”
Carrien said that if the fair continues she would come back next year because “It’s important for the future. It keeps health criticals down.”
Zach Pearson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org