UnitedHealthcare held its 11th annual back-to-school event at a Phoenix middle school on July 15, 2017. Children could get health screenings, free backpacks and haircuts. Patrick Breen/

Hundreds of children and their families flooded into Isaac Middle School in Phoenix on Saturday morning to get a little back-to-school help, one backpack at a time.

School resumes in a few weeks.

The 11th annual  UnitedHealthcare health fair offered 600 free backpacks stuffed with school supplies as well as immunizations, haircuts and dental screening for students and their families.

“We think beyond just school supplies,” said Joe Gaudio, CEO of UnitedHealthcare. “That’s why we offer physicals, encouraging healthy lifestyles not just for kids but their families as well.”


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He said the insurer’s mission is to address the social needs and health services of the communities it serves.

“When you see all the kids and the happy faces and the joy, that’s really what it’s all about,” he said. “There’s no greater reward than that.”

Easing burdens, educating participants

The event also helps lift the financial burden parents may be feeling as they prepare their kids to return to school.  

Shelly Wicklund lost her job due to a medical issue that keeps her in and out of the hospital. She said she appreciated the backpacks and free services.

Her son, Robert, was also having a blast.

“He really thoroughly enjoyed the haircut,” Wicklund said. “And he was really excited about the Girl Scout cookies.”

The health fair was also designed to entertain and educate the participants with activities such as face painting and teeth cleanings.

Ronosha Fletcher was waiting for her four children to get their faces painted.

She said the backpacks and other services really helped her family. 

“I think any kid really loves anything free,” Fletcher said. “They’re already excited looking at everything they’re getting, the prizes they can win. They’re having a really good time.”

Bike safety and free helmets

Omar Hankton was there representing the Safe Kids division for the Maricopa County Department of Public Health.

His booth focused on educating young kids on bike safety.

Any participants who came up to the booth could get a helmet fitting and ultimately take the helmet home with them.

“When I was growing up, we didn’t have this type of thing,” Hankton said. “So I think all the vendors here are doing a wonderful thing to come out and educate kids and parents on different resources they can use within the community.”

Last year, he gave away about 300 helmets within the first two hours.

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