DOH’s Prance for Prevention 5K Walk/Run

Submitted photo by Jo Coombs
No. 14 fire engine of the LaBelle Fire Department made an appearance at the walk/run. The fire department volunteers and some runners were willing to have their picture taken while enjoying the event. From left to right: #56 Sara Burke, #51 Isabella Perez, #53 Alizay Vasquez, Natalie Perez, Justin Jones (unofficial mascot of the fire department), Ron Snell, Meghan Snell and Josh Jones.

The Florida Department Of Health’s vision is “to be the healthiest state in the nation.” That vision helped push Vanessa Fischel of the Hendry/Glades DOH into coming up with the idea to have a 5K walk/run. After getting approval for her idea, Vanessa began work on her “baby.” A planning committee was formed and the “Prance for Prevention 5K Walk/Run” was born. P4P even has a Mission Statement: To protect, promote and improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county, and community efforts. Since April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, it was decided to have the walk/run at that time to raise awareness of child abuse.

The LaBelle Civic Park was all a buzz on April 12, with 55 participants, visitors, 20 non-DOH volunteers, and numerous DOH volunteers for the 1st annual “Prance for Prevention 5K Walk/Run.”

The shelter was set up with registration/check-in. Some of the sponsors set-up tables and gave away helpful items and agency information. Instead of paying a registration fee, a donation to help support the youngest and most vulnerable residents was accepted. Diapers, socks, sneakers, wipes, baby lotions, and sippy cups were part of the items donated.

Joe Pepe, Director of Hendry/Glades DOH, introduced event speaker Charles Chapman, Hendry County Administrator, who spoke to the crowd. Next it was time for a warm-up before the race officially began. Jeni Dyess was on-hand with music and exercises to loosen up the body and get it prepared for the strenuous upcoming walk/run.

With strollers and babies along, numerous mothers showed their support by participating in the walk/run. One such mother had a little boy, about 2 or 3 years old, with a cast on his leg sitting in a stroller. After the race started, the little boy was overcome by the excitement of the race and all its participants. He then got out of the stroller and joined in. Mom trailed along behind him with the stroller watching for signs of tiredness. When these signs became obvious, Mom put him back in the stroller and continued the 5K.

Even though it was spearheaded by the Florida Department of Health in Hendry/Glades, it wouldn’t have been a success without the other agencies involved. The sponsors were: Abuse Counseling & Treatment, Inc., Coach Frost, Department of Children and Families, Girl Scouts of LaBelle, Guardian Ad Litem, Healthier Hendry/Glades Task Force, Hendry County EMS, Healthy Families and Healthy Start Hendry/Glades Advisory Committee, Hendry County District Schools, Hendry County Sheriff’s Explorers Post #642, Hendry/LaBelle Recreation Board, Kiwanis Club of LaBelle, LaBelle Fire Department, Monique Burr, Inc., Project Care, Safe Kids SW Florida, Save-A-Lot, Stay Well, United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades & Okeechobee, Winn-Dixie of LaBelle.

Do you remember the Mission Statement? It was: “To protect, promote and improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county, and community efforts.” This walk/run did all that and more too!!!

Jo can be reached at

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