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Kids Fair features helpful resources for new mothers, families

by JULIE ENGLER
Whitefish Pilot | August 10, 2022 1:00 AM

Kids of all ages could fish a rubber duck from the pond, have a giraffe balloon animal made for them or even spray a real fire hose at a plywood “house” while parents learned about the myriad of resources available to them in the Flathead Valley.

Last week the Flathead Valley Breastfeeding Coalition (FVBC) hosted the 10th annual Kids Fair in conjunction with World Breastfeeding Week, after taking two years off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The event was held on the grounds of Logan Health — Whitefish.

“Our goal is to spread the word about community resources because there are so many things out there, all sorts of family care resources, from prenatally through pregnancy all the way through little kids,” said Sandra Beale, President of the FVBC and a nurse at Logan Health — Whitefish. “It’s really incredible and you can’t take advantage of them if you don’t know about them.”

Over 35 booths were on site to provide information about everything related to parenting, from organizations that offer financial assistance to dentists and chiropractors throughout the valley who work with children.

Kimberly DeVries, vice president of the FVBC, identified some of the booths at the Kids Fair: the Community Action Partnership that provides financial support, WIC, Healthy Montana Families, Glacier Children’s Museum and Flathead Family Planning.

“We’ve got Ned from the Early Childhood Coalition and they do their Bright by Texts where parents can get texts about things going on in the valley or information about normal child development,” DeVries explained.

Nature Baby Outfitters partnered with the Flathead Health Department to provide car seat safety checkups. Parents were able to drive up and two certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians evaluated the car seats to make sure they were safe.

“We have so many amazing community resources that people aren’t even aware of,” said DeVries, mentioning the Postpartum Resource Group that helps new mothers and families in need of mental health support and other resources following the birth of a baby.

DeVries said the theme of World Breastfeeding Week is “Step Up for Breastfeeding'' and that the point was to get everyone to spread the word about available resources after the pandemic caused some services to stop and many people to feel isolated.

“All the isolation could be causing more of a need for resources now and when you’re in that depressed state, you don’t really want to go out and (seek help),” said FVBC’s Martha Artyomenko, labor doula and breastfeeding advocate. “We try to have a fun day for kids and parents and they can learn about resources.”

The FVBC runs a program called Baby Bistro, the Flathead Valley's postpartum peer group for parents and babies. They assist in feeding support and connect parents within the community. The group is free and there are two locations in the valley. The group meets on Mondays in Whitefish at the Professional Office Building on Thirteenth Street and on Saturdays in Kalispell at the Heart and Hands Midwifery and Family Healthcare on West Reserve Drive.

“We do have resources all year long,” said Artyomenko. “Baby Bistro gives support for women who are having issues or who just want a sense of community.”

While the Kids Fair is a fundraiser for FVBC, its main goal is to showcase the resources available to parents and children.

“The vendors donate the raffle baskets and whatever we get from tee shirt sales and raffle baskets goes right back into our coalition,” said Beale. “That’s how we support our Baby Bistro groups, which is volunteer-based.”

“One of our members was interested in becoming a certified lactation counselor and we paid fully for her to become a lactation counselor and now she provides that service to the community,” Beale said. “She’s one of our facilitators at the Baby Bistro. So that’s exactly what we do.”

She added that in the future they would also like to send one of their members to a conference to learn about more ways the FVBC can support the community.

This year the Kids Fair, per usual, was a hit with everyone who attended no matter their age; the FVBC was able to spread the word on resources, and its mission to protect, promote and support breastfeeding in the Flathead community

“It’s just really fun to see the kids and for everybody to know that we’re here and we promote and protect the mamas of the valley,” said Beale.

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Families play with large blocks at the Kids Fair on Aug. 3. The event was hosted by the Flathead Valley Breastfeeding Coalition. (Julie Engler/Whitefish Pilot)

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The Whitefish Fire Department was on hand to help kids knock out pretend fires with a firehose during the Kids Fair on Aug. 3. (Julie Engler/Whitefish Pilot)

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Members of the Whitefish Fire Department help kids practice aiming a firehose at the Kids Fair on Aug. 3. The event was hosted by the Flathead Valley Breastfeeding Coalition. (Julie Engler/Whitefish Pilot)

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Devin Beale provided face painting at the Stumptown Art Studio booth during the Kids Fair on Aug. 3 at Logan Health Whitefish. (Julie Engler/Whitefish Pilot)

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Families with kids of all ages enjoyed the Kids Fair at Logan Health Whitefish on Aug. 3. (Julie Engler/Whitefish Pilot)

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A baby sleeps during the Kids Fair on Aug. 3 at Logan Health Whitefish. (Julie Engler/Whitefish Pilot)

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Magician and balloon artist Drew Miller made animals of all colors while some kids were prepared for possible popping balloons at the Kids Fair. (Julie Engler/Whitefish Pilot)

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Drew Miller, a magician and balloon artist, makes a white butterfly, as requested, at the Kids Fair. (Julie Engler/Whitefish Pilot)

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Vendors donated dozens of baskets to be raffled off at the Kids Fair. (Julie Engler/Whitefish Pilot)

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The Flathead Valley Breastfeeding Coalition hosted the tenth annual Kids Fair on Aug. 3 in conjunction with World Breastfeeding Week. (Julie Engler/Whitefish Pilot)

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Kids play in the duck pond while enjoying cupcakes during the Kids Fair at Logan Health Whitefish. (Julie Engler/Whitefish Pilot)