HSOC 2009: 4X Bigger, Better, Bolder

On April 11, 2009 Greater Hartford embraced the 4th Annual Step Into Wellness & Health Expo: Hartford Step-Off Classic. For the third consecutive year more than 2800 patrons sold out the Bushnell Performing Arts Center to witness and participate in this family friendly community event. The day combined rhythms and syncopated movement with a multitude of health and wellness providers, insurers, educators and community outreach services. College sorority and fraternity teams among the Divine Nine came from Pennsylvania up to Massachusetts to compete for prize money and 1st place trophies. The audience was also treated to exhibition performances by local area middle school, high school and collegiate step teams. Opening the show this year was The Art of Drill (Drum Line) team from Jumoke Middle School (Hartford, CT) which captivated the audience with their rhythms and powerful sound setting the tone for a rousing and uplifting start.

The BSL Educational Foundation, Inc. and BSL Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. sponsored the event through the funding of lead contributor, The Connecticut Health Foundation. The CT Health Foundation along with CIGNA and Hobson Associates has been the lead sponsors since it’s inception in 2006. That first event drew 1,500 patrons to the University of Hartford Sport Complex. The 2009 HSOC had the addition of two new sponsors – AmeriChoice by United Healthcare and Fairview Capital. This year, the event was also blessed to have many of its returning corporate sponsors from 2008: My People Clinical Services, the U.S. Army, Eastern Orthopedic Sports Medicine, The Michael Janet Suisman CAF, the Community Health Network of CT, the BET Foundation, ProHealth Physicians and the local CBS Broadcasting Station Hot 93.7 FM Radio.
Sponsorships defrayed some of the cost of the event while ticket sales generated more than $25,000 to grow the endowment of the BSL Educational Foundation Inc. The Foundation annually awards more than $15,000 in scholarships to graduating seniors, sponsorship for high school students to attend the Fraternity’s Eastern Region Leadership Development Institute, awards scholarships to participants of the Bro. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Oratorical Contest, and targets middle and high school students with its Project Alpha event. The revenue will also help the Foundation to continue the Alpha Academy, a continuum program for educational enrichment and personal development for young men of color.

Through the Health Expo, we look to inspire our guests to lead healthier lives through education, healthy eating, regular exercise and routine examinations. We gave guests an opportunity to visit twenty different health organizations and learn or experience ways in which they could personally improve their own health. Guests were able to test their basketball skills at the U.S. Army booth, get tips on how to live a healthier life from CIGNA, play the Nintendo Wii at the Best Buy booth or have their blood pressure screened by the Chi Eta Phi Nursing Sorority.

This year, we added the “Health Passport: Free Give Away Program.” Upon entering the Health Expo each guest was given a “passport” that they were to use, “on their road to a healthier life.” To participate, each guest needed to visit five different health vendors and receive a star sticker from each. After collecting five stars, they were asked to put their passport into a “Passport Drop Box” to be entered in our free give-a-way. The prizes included two healthy living baskets donated and created by the BSL Educational Foundation, Inc. and a grand prize gift basket donated on behalf of The West Hartford Whole Foods Market. The Whole Foods Market gift basket contained items valued at over $100, plus a gift card to shop at any Whole Foods Market.

Bro. Dr. Tory Westbrook in full medical attire, along with fellow Drs. Kevin Collins, Liz Evans, Rochelle Collins, Lori Wilson, Biree Andermariam, Annette Wagner and Zaneta Brown addressed the crowd via several skits about healthy lifestyles and how improper dieting and obesity can result in diabetes, hypertension, high blood pressure, blindness and other ailments.

The winner for the top Fraternity team was the Alpha Phi Alpha team from UCONN. The Brothers of Iota Phi Theta (UCONN) came in 2nd, beating out teams from Kappa Alpha Psi (Philadelphia, PA), Omega Psi Phi (New Haven, CT) and Phi Beta Sigma (Penn State University). The winner for the top Sorority team was Delta Sigma Theta from Boston, MA besting the ladies of Sigma Gamma Rho. Each team received a trophy and $2000. The community teams featured The Gifted Ones and Talented Teens (Fox Middle School, Hartford), Star Steppers (Washington Media School, Hartford), Elite Step Team (University of New Haven), New Generations Step Team (East Hartford High) and the Best Men Leadership Group (New Jersey). Each team received a $300 stipend for their team.

The event was co-chaired by Bros. Elijah A. Oliver, Kareem K. Nulan, Shontae K. White and Steven King, Jr., President of the BSL Chapter. The core members assisting were Bros. Avery Gaddis, Raymond Oliver, Dr. Tory Westbrook, Brandon McGee, Charles Stokes, Clay Woods, Lee Brown, Ken Summers, Eloka Ifudu, Nelson Lemieux and Mishone Donelson. The Bushnell and the BSL Educational Foundation, Inc. have secured next year: April 3, 2010 for the Fifth Anniversary Year; so mark your calendars now. Since there was a waiting list for participating teams and a demand for more tickets we are sure the 2010 HSOC & Health Expo will continue to be better than ever!

The HSOC committee is truly appreciative of the efforts of the Bushnell Performing Arts Center and Ms. Meghan Bianco, Rental Events Coordinator at the Bushnell who helped to make the event a success for the theatre and the community. On-air promotional efforts by Hot 93.7 in CT and 90.7 in MA and placement of highway and rooftop billboards in Hartford and Springfield helped to increase the awareness of the event.