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Free family fun available at Gresham fair

Aug 24

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Friday, August 24, 2012  RssIcon

MUNCIE — Whether the focus is on health and wellness or on a fun day out of the house, the fair at the Suzanne Gresham Center is geared toward keeping children safe and happy.

For the fifth year, inflatable houses will line the center’s parking lot as children wait their turn to bounce from wall to wall, bumping into new friends and laughing along the way.

A pizza lunch will fill their bellies while parents learn about local programs that could broaden their children’s horizons.

And it’s all free.

“We know in this economy, parents are stressed out and anything we can do ease that stress, we’re happy to do,” said Margaret Richardson, chairman of the fair’s committee. “It can be a huge relief for families, to know that everything at a fair is free — the games, the food, the inflatables. Adults don’t have to worry about having enough money for anything. They can just have fun and learn about what’s going on in the community.”

Last year, more than 3,000 people visited the fun fair, an increase from the early years when a couple of hundred people showed at the Gresham parking lot. But word of mouth and the inclusion of more partnering agencies have brought more than Meridian Health Services’ clients to the event.

Meridian employees have also used the fair to include health and vision screenings for children, reminding families of the importance of good health for people of all ages.

“We have a captive audience ... it’s also a safe environment for people to get information they may not have received before,” said Hank Milius, Meridian’s president and CEO. “We have people from so many different programs and agencies there, it’s a great time to learn about, maybe, government programs or anything else people want to know more about, but never have to chance to ask.”

The fair is also a time for adults to learn what they personally can do to prevent child abuse.

Across the nation each year, six million children experience abuse in various forms such as neglect, physical harm, emotional pain and more.

Gresham center employees — who work with the victims of child abuse and their families — said fairs are just as important to preventing abuse than anything else.

“Parents are having a good time with their children and they see them happy, as they should be. That image can do a lot to remind adults of what they need to do not to harm their child,” said Eileen Moore, the program manager of the Child Advocacy Center at the Gresham Center. “Neglect is the largest form of abuse, but in this case, they’re spending time with their children, having a good time.”

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