Approximately 35 children, parents and staff of the Orangeburg-Calhoun-Allendale-Bamberg Head Start Program attended the Fifth Annual Health & Fitness Game hosted by the S.C. Department of Social Services and the University of South Carolina's national champion Lady Gamecocks on Sunday afternoon, Feb. 11, at the Colonial Life Arena in Columbia.
The event, sponsored by the state DSS Early Care and Education Division and the USC Women's Basketball Team, is coordinated through the S.C. Head Start Collaboration Office with programs around the state.
The Lady Gamecocks’ game against the University of Florida women “was a real treat for everyone,” OCAB Head Start Director Necole Stroman said. “This year, the focus was on involving fathers from the participating programs, and we had our largest showing ever.”
OCAB’s group joined Head Start children, staff and families from 11 other programs around the state at the game. The purpose of the annual event is to promote healthy food and physical activity for young children and their families. Public service announcements featuring Head Coach Dawn Staley were shown throughout the game, which also featured booths, activities, prizes and giveaways celebrating the fun and benefits that come from eating healthy foods and participating in physical activity.
“We thank Coach Dawn Staley and South Carolina DSS for sponsoring this opportunity for our parents and children to strengthen family bonds while having fun,” Stroman said.
The fatherhood initiative provides special outreach and activities to encourage fathers to actively participate in their children’s development, she added. Attending activities like the Lady Gamecocks' Health and Fitness Game is just one way that Head Start supports both fathers and mothers in their roles as nurturers and teachers, Stroman said.
The OCAB Head Start Program enrolls 3- and 4-year-olds at 10 centers throughout Orangeburg, Calhoun, Allendale, and Bamberg counties. Expectant mothers and children ages 0-3 are served in the Denmark Early Head Start Program. The program prepares children to enter kindergarten with comprehensive assessments and customized activities to ensure their educational, social, emotional and physical health and development.
More than just a child care, the Head Start programs deliver comprehensive services, including health, mental health and disability screenings and follow-up treatment, bus transportation to and from most centers and breakfast, lunch and snacks daily - all free of charge to parents. The Orangeburg Head Start Center on Joe S. Jeffords Highway, completed in 2015, is fully equipped with the latest child development technology including SMART Boards and fitness instruction “on demand,” as well as security measures that assure a safe environment for children, staff and parents,
In addition, Head Start staff work closely with families to ensure that household needs are met, and children receive the support they need to learn and grow.
Staley, a three-time gold medal Olympian and 2013 inductee into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, said, "Physical activity and healthy eating are a vital part of our children's success and health in life. I hope that by bringing children and their families to a family-friendly event that celebrates physical activity, making healthy choices and teamwork, we encourage children to play more, eat smarter and enjoy being physically active."
The event also honored several foster and adoptive families in recognition of their commitments to the betterment of South Carolina’s children.
"DSS is proud to provide this opportunity for the fifth year in a row," said Amber Gillum, deputy director of economic services at DSS. "We appreciate Coach Staley and the Lady Gamecocks for their efforts to raise awareness about the importance of healthy eating and physical activity, and for helping us create a fun and memorable experience for South Carolina's young children and their families."
The OCAB Head Start program is recruiting children for current and fall enrollment. All churches, community-based organizations and members of the community are encouraged to support and assist parents with registering children turning 3 or 4 years old by Oct. 1 of the enrollment year. Expectant mothers and parents of children up to 3 years old in Bamberg County should apply at the Denmark Early Head Start Center, 803-793-3010.
For information about registering 3- and 4-year-olds, contact Family Services staff at Head Start centers in Allendale, Bamberg, Denmark, Neeses and St. Matthews. For centers in Elloree, Holly Hill, Orangeburg, Santee and Vance, call the OCAB Head Start Orangeburg Center at 803-585-7785 or the OCAB Head Start Office in Orangeburg, 1822 Joe S. Jeffords Highway, at 803-536-1027.