Mississippi United, a new grassroots effort that aims to improve health, humanity and quality of life in Mississippi, is set to celebrate its community launch – along with Healthy Kids Day – with the YMCA of Southeast Mississippi.
The community-wide event will take place from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. April 24 in the parking lot of the YMCA at 3719 Veterans Memorial Drive in Hattiesburg. In addition to the itinerary of Healthy Kids Day, Mississippi United will hold a membership ribbon cutting with members of the Area Development Partnership.
“We’re just excited to be able to kick off our nonprofit, with Hattiesburg being the first stop of six,” said Sara Odom, executive director of Mississippi United. “We’re a statewide nonprofit, so we’re going to be having a six-city statewide tour, and Hattiesburg is the first stop.
“So this in an exciting event, where we can start getting the word out to the state about Mississippi United. We’re excited to partner with the YMCA because a lot of our initiatives – especially our health initiative – line up. And because Mississippi United is so interested in finding those alliances and partnerships across the state, this just felt like a natural fit, to partner with an organization like that.”
The free event will feature live music by Charles “CC” Carter, an appearance by Mississippi Miss Hospitality McKay Lee Bray, and discussions with health and wellness representatives from around the community. Attendees also can enjoy free food, information on how to keep children physically and mentally healthy, and activities for kids, including balloons by University Florist.
A reading tent with Miss Presley Heights Katelyn Brown, who serves as mental health ambassador for Mississippi United, will be set up. Free yoga demonstrations will be held, and appearances will be made by community healthcare partners including the William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine and Pine Grove Behavioral Health and Addiction Services.
Mayor Toby Barker will issue an official city proclamation for the celebration. The event is sponsored in part by Spartan Mosquito, which will stage a community product giveaway.
“We have invited a lot of these resources and partners,” Odom said. “We’re going to have a lot of these people set up with tents, and handing out informational and educational brochures – things that people can actually tap into to get information on what they need in different areas.
“Some of them may be giving away some of their promotional items or products that may be able to help people further those initiatives. We’re going to have lots of different things for people of all age groups; it should be a really fun day for everybody in the family, which is just so needed right now.”
Mississippi United focuses on three branches: health advocacy and service, natural disaster response, and mental health awareness and support. For more information on the organization, visit www.mississippiunited.org.
“We’re going to be finding out how we can pull all the resources that we have in Mississippi to touch people that may not know what they’re experiencing,” Odom said. “A lot of people, when they go through a challenging illness or financial struggles – or even right now, with adolescents dealing with not being in school – they may not even know the mental health side of what they’re experiencing.
“And with each community, we want to make this a unique nonprofit, so we’re not going to be set on one specific goal or task statewide. Hattiesburg’s issues may look a little different from Tupelo’s, which may look a little different from Natchez, so we’re really going to go into each community with the mindset of the problems and struggles that they’re dealing with in their community and help them uniquely put together a format to get the resources to help them.”
Healthy Kids Day is a free event designed to inspire creativity, awaken imaginations and encourage children to stay active and engaged during summer break. The event is held each spring and includes active play and educational activities aimed at maintaining healthy habits and academic skills.
“Healthy Kids Day provides all the ingredients for developing healthy, resilient kids,” said Matt Rumph, CEO of the YMCA of Southeast Mississippi. “Join the Y for a day full of activities that celebrate kids being kids.”