Okanagan Similkameen Healthy Living Fair organizers are resolving to spend 2012 shaping up their offerings into a year-round program, not just one day marked on the calendar.
Dr. Gerry Karr, one of the event co-founders, told Penticton council last month that changes were ahead for the event, which has been held annually since 2008.
“We need a time out. The current one-day model we have had in the past is not sustainable,” he said.
The Healthy Living Fair evolved into a weekend event that drew 300 registered participants who were able to take part in various stations involving health screening and goal setting, in addition to speeches by nutrition experts, a public showcase with vendors and organized physical activity.
Karr said that while the event is popular, each year the fair finds itself struggling to secure the funding required from sponsor and partner organizations grappling with tight budgets. He explained that those financial challenges come at a time when health concerns like obesity and diabetes are on the rise.
“It’s getting more difficult for us, and yet we also know there’s a great need for what we do,” Karr said.
Karr detailed to council how he is seeking to tap into the fair’s pool of volunteers and partners to morph it into a year-long program that helps walk people through their desire to live healthy lives.
“This support is essential to help individuals be successful,” he said.
They will be seeking a better marketing program in addition to forming an umbrella of groups with various health interests — especially those looking to conduct work with evidence-based methodology. Partners like Interior Health, the school district, Okanagan College and UBCO could team up on research particularly dealing with high-risk groups, he said.
While they have received grants in the past, Karr explained that they are in the process of registering for a Canada Revenue Agency non-profit number. Non-profit status would make them eligible for foundation grants and other public donations, especially from those seeking charitable tax receipts.
Karr said the first phase of planning and development will last until May 2012, at which point the program would be launched. It will run for a year until May 2013, when the program’s work will culminate in a one-day fair event.
To get themselves through the first stage of planning, however, Karr said the group was seeking one-time funding from partners. He asked the City of Penticton to contribute $6,000, which would be a portion of the $16,500 required for the first phase.
Local laboratories and doctors in town have contributed, Karr said, and once they have a charitable status they anticipate donations and grants to be readily accessible.
“We will never ask for this again,” he said. “Your support is really an investment in a sustainable, long-term program that will be badly needed and that can really make a difference.”
Coun. Garry Litke said he was “sad” to hear the fair would not be held in 2012.
“I think it’s documented that over the years, you’ve probably saved lives,” he said.
Council unanimously passed a motion to include the Healthy Living Fair organizers’ funding request during budget deliberations.