Tailgate party focuses on fitness, not football

New London - There was little talk of football and certainly no beer at this tailgate party, which brought together a coalition of groups committed to improving health and wellness on Sunday.

To mark the start of Black History Month and National Heart Month, the African-American Health Council of Southeastern Connecticut, Ledge Light Health District, the New London NAACP and the American Heart Association held what was billed as "the Ultimate Tailgate Party" at the Radisson Hotel in New London.

"This winter has been kind of brutal and maybe people had fitness goals that they kind of let slip," said Stephanye Clarke, one of the event organizers. "So we wanted to bring together all different agencies - from health and wellness to fitness groups - to provide this resource to people."

The free event, which ran from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Radisson, ended well before the Super Bowl and included free health screenings, H1N1 vaccinations and HIV/AIDS tests. Volunteers dressed in red served as "travel agents, guiding people on their journey to wellness," Clarke said.

A "health passport" guided attendees to stations with blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar screenings, fitness stations and healthy snacks.

"It's kind of like one-stop shopping for health information," she said.

While the event was open to anyone in the community, organizers hoped to target African-Americans in the area, who demographically are more susceptible to some illnesses, like diabetes, stroke or heart attacks, said Stephanie Brown, president of the local NAACP chapter.

"A lot of the diseases affect the African-American community in higher numbers," Brown said. "There's a lot of issues we need to be aware of, and which also benefit the whole community."

The event also included information about the upcoming census. The NAACP partners with the Census Bureau to help inform people about the importance of the count and help people learn how to apply for census jobs.

"We're grateful to be out here for community awareness on health issues and to help people get jobs," Brown said.

The New London NAACP chapter held a similar census-related event in January on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The day-long program, "Make King Day Count," included information on the importance of the census and workshops for people interested in jobs and preparing to take a qualifying test.

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