HANNIBAL — The CHART (Community Health Assistance Resource Team) Teen Task Force is preparing for its 26th Teen Health Fair, promising a wide variety of interactive educational experiences for free from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 4 at the Admiral Coontz Recreation Center.

Participants between 11 and 19 years of age can collect punches at each of the 36 planned booths focused on health and safety. When 25 punches are collected, each teen can turn in their card for the chance to win from a large selection of prizes. A DJ, photo booth, food and drinks and lots of free items will be available for visitors of all ages.

Dr. Sandra Ahlum, chairperson of the CHART Teen Task Force, said she there will be several new booths for youth to explore. The Hannibal Free Public Library will offer presentations about its Teen Zone and various programs, and Cosmetology students from the Hannibal Career and Technical Center will provide styling and haircuts. CHART Teen Task Force treasurer Claudia Buckman worked with the Missouri Department of Conservation to arrange for its live snake demonstration to assist youth with safely identifying between various species.

Returning agencies include the UMKC School of Pharmacy, the Missouri State Highway Patrol — with the Seat Belt Convincer sled — and the University of Missouri Extension's pedal-powered Smoothie Bike.

"Teens and their parents can experience a variety of educational booths and demonstrations which can enhance asset development and a healthy lifestyle," Ahlum said.

Community Coordinator Leigh Ann Buckman said popular booths from the Hannibal Fire Department, Hannibal Police Department, Marion County Ambulance District, Air Evac, Northeast Power and Gracie Barra will also return.

The free event offers a unique event for youth throughout Northeast Missouri to learn while having fun during a time of the year when there aren't as many activities planned. Church youth groups, scout groups, families with teens and school groups are all invited to attend.

If a school can find a sponsor, Ahlum explained grant money is available to help with reimbursement for bus costs. Everyone who visits has the chance to learn more about the importance of making healthy and safe life choices.

"That's one of our hopes, that parents and their kids can go home and continue to talk about it — why is important not to be having sex, so you don't get STDs and don't have pregnancies — why is it important not to drink and drive," Ahlum said. "Those things help to sort of nudge them to talk about them more at home. That's really, really important."

Buckman expressed her appreciation for support from area teachers who are supporting the effort by offering teens extra credit. She said generous donations from area partners have resulted in a great deal of exciting prizes for teens to win, including St. Louis Cardinals tickets, Kansas City Chiefs merchandise, Ray-Ban sunglasses, chocolates, gift cards for local restaurants and cash prizes.

A variety of free food will be served, including pizza, cheese sticks, cereal bars donated by General Mills, apples and cookies. Free beverages include soft drinks, water and milk. If a teen chooses white or chocolate milk, they are entered for a chance to win one of several stuffed cows.

CHART Teen Task Force has a goal of reaching 500 youth during the Teen Health Fair, and representatives encourage everyone to come for the day to have a fun time while learning safe and healthy lessons.

"I hope that we have lots of people there. That's what I'm excited about — that we'll have a good turnout — and that we'll have good things for them to see and do once they get there," Ahlum said. "I think they'll be really pleased with that — that it will be worth their time."

Hannibal Parks and Recreation and CHART Teen Task Force are the co-sponsors of the Teen Health Fair. Area individuals and businesses provided support, with sponsors including the Riedel Foundation, Hannibal Evening Kiwanis Club, Healthy Blue and Home State Health.

More information is available by calling Bergman at 573-822-4271.

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