Springing into health and happiness

  • English

Springing into health and happiness

Story and photos by Robin Elisabeth Kilmer

Madelín Barrientos and her daughters, Alana Cosme and Julianne Sisto, enjoyed the “Let’s Bloom” festival at CUNY in the Heights.

Madelín Barrientos and her daughters, Alana Cosme and Julianne Sisto, enjoyed the “Let’s Bloom” festival at CUNY in the Heights.

An event planner scarcely needs reason for celebration.

Any excuse will do – and spring offers abundant motivation.

On Sat., Apr. 20th, event planners who routinely execute weddings, parties, quinceañeras and more got together to plan something a little different: “Let’s Bloom,” a free nutrition health and wellness festival at the CUNY in the Heights center on Broadway.

The topics covered included nutrition and exercise, and even economic empowerment.

“We’re not just giving tips on exercising and eating healthy, but [also on] financial health and living right,” said Annette Smith, one of the event’s planners.

Smith is a student in Professor E. Randahl Hoey’s event planning class.

Healthy snacks fit the theme of wellness.

Healthy snacks fit the theme of wellness.

Professor Hoey has been teaching the class for five years.

The 17 students in his class helped plan the event as part of their certification.

The class was responsible for the content of the event.

Many of the students hail from the Bronx and Northern Manhattan, both communities which are afflicted with high rates of obesity and diabetes. This informed their decision when it came time for the class to pick a theme.

“We wanted to do something for the community,” said Prof. Hoey.

Also aiding in choosing the event’s themes was the fact that both National Public Health Week and Earth Day are celebrated in April.

“The turnout was great,” said Jazmin De La Cruz (left), with event co-chair Takiya Darby (right).

“The turnout was great,” said Jazmin De La Cruz (left), with event co-chair Takiya Darby (right).

Financial literacy classes were held, and blood pressure screenings offered.

Massage therapists and health experts were on hand to provide relaxation and information, and small bites and beverages were offered.

The food was prepared by the students.

Milagros Cesar, who is a wedding planner, combined cherry tomatoes and cheese, for example, to create healthy vegetarian skewers.

She said it was important that local residents see simple, healthy options that they can try out for themselves at home.

Nelson Vásquez is a chef for David Ziff Cooking, an Upper East Side-based catering company. He treated visitors to a bevy of healthy dishes, serving fruit with mint, guava paste with cheese and Jewish apple cake.

“Together, the cheese and guava were the favorite,” he said.

Healthy cheese and tomato bites made by Milagros Cesar.

Healthy cheese and tomato bites made by Milagros Cesar.

He noted that just three tablespoons of guava paste provides 15 percent of the daily recommended intake of Vitamin C.

The Kids Corner provided a niche for younger participants while parents had screenings and massages. It was manned by trained educators, and the children also were offered healthy snacks and creative play.

Julianne Sisto and Alana Cosme enjoyed getting their cheeks painted.

They also learned some valuable information about washing their hands.

“We have to sing the ABC’s,” reported Julianne, 10. “That’s how long we have to wash our hands.”

Sisto’s cousin attends ballet class at CUNY in the Heights; the festival proved a bonus on the sun-splashed afternoon.

The girls were accompanied by their mother, Madelín Barrientos, who said her favorite part of the day was watching her young charges have their faced painted.

“Let’s Bloom” was the second health-related event organized by Professor Hoey’s class.

The first, in 2010, was in the Bronx.

This year’s event was sponsored by CUNY, Healthfirst, and Santander Bank.

“CUNY In the Heights is happy to help students do events like these that add to their portfolio and that help the community,” explained Aldrin Bonilla, the Executive Director of CUNY In the Heights. “By doing good, you also make yourself more marketable.”

The event’s co-chairs, Takiya Darby and Jazmin De La Cruz, concluded that their efforts had paid off.

“The turnout was great,” agreed De La Cruz, whose own company is Big Day Events. “[Participants] said this was a great idea,” affirmed Darby. “The best part is that many people got their blood pressure checked and most [results] were normal.”

For more information on CUNY in the Heights programs, please visit www.hostos.cuny.edu/contedu/wheights/ or call 212.567.7132.