CINCINNATI — Starting in April, Cincinnati will have a little more hope to go around.
HopeFest, the popular health and education festival that has been held in Over-the-Rhine for the past four years, is expanding.
Two Mini HopeFest events will be held in other neighborhoods for the first time this year. The first will be April 2 at the Seven Hills Neighborhood Center in the West End. The second will be April 16 at Woodward High School in Bond Hill.
The big event will mark its fifth year in Washington Park on July 9. All three events run from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The expansion is aimed at reaching more Cincinnati families who live in poverty and don't visit the doctor regularly for preventative health care, said HopeFest co-founder Sherman Bradley, founder and CEO of the nonprofit organization Consider the Poor and a pastor at New Life Covenant Cincinnati.
Many of the children and adults who have attended HopeFest in years past don't have smoke detectors or toothbrushes or the asthma inhalers they need.
"Some of them don't have health care at all," Bradley said.
The HopeFest events aim to address those needs by providing a variety of preventative screenings, including dental, vision, diabetes, speech, hearing, asthma, blood pressure and body mass index calculations that help screen for obesity.
HopeFest also provides information about remedial education, tutoring, mentoring, after-school programs and summer camps.
Casey Fisher happened to be at Washington Park during last year's HopeFest. She was so impressed she started pushing to have a similar event at Woodward Career Technical High School, where she is the resource coordinator.
"I was just really, really amazed at all the resources that were available to the community and that it was all free," Fisher said. "I thought it was a great outreach opportunity and something that was needed."
Serving 'Whoever Is Poor — Period'
Fisher is excited to have a Mini HopeFest at Woodward, she said, because she is confident that students and parents will feel comfortable at the school and be more open to getting health screenings that could improve their lives.
"Hopefully, they grasp the importance of that and their education," she said.
Bradley said he doesn't know how many participants to expect at the two, new Mini HopeFest events.
Roughly 2,000 people showed up at the big HopeFest event last July, he said. Volunteers recorded data for about 1,000 participants, and half of them were children.
He's hoping to reach more children and adults this year.
"Our target audience is whoever is poor — period," Bradley said.
More than a dozen companies and organizations help sponsor HopeFest, providing money, volunteers and goods and services.
Nehemiah is a for-profit company with a mission of bringing manufacturing jobs back to inner city Cincinnati and of giving second chances to people with felony convictions who want to rebuild their lives.
Nehemiah President Richard Palmer said the company jumped at the chance to help sponsor HopeFest.
The company provides financial support, volunteers and also distributes some of the family brands it manufactures — Boogie Wipes, Kandoo and Dreft.
"For us, it seems to hit on all fronts," Palmer said. "Our mission at Nehemiah is giving people second chances and helping people get back to work. A lot of these folks live in our community."
Company employees volunteer at HopeFest wearing what Palmer described as "obnoxiously, bright-colored T-shirts with Nehemiah on it."
"A lot of people are like, 'I had no idea you guys existed,'" Palmer said. "I know that bears some fruit for us."
'The Feeling That We're Here For You'
The education nonprofit Strive Partnership also is a HopeFest sponsor.
"The great thing about HopeFest is that it makes being healthy fun for kids and families," said Nia Baucke, a community impact manager at Strive Partnership.
"Health is so connected to education. We know that when a kid is healthy and feeling good they usually tend to perform better in the classroom."
This July will mark the third year that Strive Partnership has had a table at HopeFest where the organization distributes free books and information to parents about reading aloud to their children.
The main idea, Baucke said, is to break down the barriers that parents sometimes feel in traditional health care settings.
"Children and parents are really receptive to it," she said of the event. "It's the feeling that we're here for you, and we want to see you succeed as a parent. We want to see your children succeed as students and have healthy lives."
Deshawn Thomas can attest to that first-hand.
Thomas, a 17-year-old from Elmwood Place, volunteered at last summer's HopeFest event and watched his little sister participate in a lot of the activities.
"She loved it," he said. "She felt like she was famous. People were taking pictures and videos. And everyone was friendly to everyone."
Thomas said he's looking forward to helping out again this year.
"This is a great event," he said. "If people come out and enjoy it, it will be the best time of their day."
For more information about any of the three HopeFest events, click here.
For information on how to contact Bradley or make donations to HopeFest, click here.
Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region – to celebrate what makes the Tri-State great and also shine a spotlight on issues we need to address. Childhood poverty is an important focus for her and for WCPO.