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December 2011 Community Award - San Jose Unified School District's Healthy Start Program

by Staff Writer / San Jose Sharks

Each December, the Sharks Foundation hosts its "Holiday Assist Party" to brighten the holidays for families in need. It's by far our athletes' favorite Sharks Foundation event of the season. Susie Aldrich and Healthy Start has been instrumental in identifying these families and ensuring they are getting the resources they need to succeed. Their tireless work goes well beyond the "Holiday Assist Party" and they have proven to be an essential resource for the students of the SJUSD.

Please give us a brief history of Healthy Start.
The SJUSD Healthy Start program was established in 1993 and offers assistance to students and families in all 42 of our schools. The mission of Healthy Start Family Resource Center is to provide integrated and easily accessible health and social services to no/low income children and families in an effort to assist them with maximizing their potential in areas of health, education and family functioning.

Some of our critical programs include:

  • Health insurance enrollment assistance to help ensure that all students in our district are covered under a health insurance plan
  • School Based Medical Clinics in collaboration with Santa Clara County School Health Clinics
  • Food program assistance in collaboration with Second Harvest Food Bank
  • Uniform and school supply program for students/families that cannot afford to purchase their own
  • Holiday Assistance Program for families experiencing difficult times
  • Assistance for families experiencing homelessness
  • Annual clothing drive/giveaway
  • Health fair opportunities for our school sites
  • Safe Routes to School opportunities

What does the Holiday Assist Party mean to the families involved and to your staff?
The Holiday Assist Program gives many of our families the opportunity to experience a night of ice-skating, dinner, gifts, etc…For many families, it's a night they will never forget. Through this program we have built strong relationships with the Sharks, our school sites/staff, students and families. The Holiday Assist Party has given Healthy Start the opportunity to identify and reach out to many of our families that are in need in ways beyond the holiday program.

What are your thoughts on the Sharks players' involvement in the community?
It is amazing to see the commitment the Sharks players have to their community and to helping families that are less fortunate. To attend the holiday assist party and see the players "in action" with the families is as rewarding as seeing the families and the happiness they are experiencing. We have often had players come back after the party wanting to do even more for the families. This is completely voluntary and to see how much they want to give back shows the true character of what community involvement means to the players.

How can Sharks fans support Healthy Start?
Times are very difficult for many of our families and their needs are beyond what any one organization can take care of. Sharks fans have always shown so much generosity through events such as the food and toys drives, fundraisers, etc... We are hopeful that in the future we can expand our relationship to involve some of the other programs that the Sharks currently offer, as well as the possibility of creating new ones that will assist families in the community. Examples might be: school supplies and backpack drives and physical activity programs for students.

Why do you think Healthy Start and the Sharks Foundation have a successful partnership?
Our partnership with the San Jose Sharks is successful due to our similar mission for the community. Both organizations place education, health, safety and character development as a high priority for working with the community.

We value our relationship and acknowledge how important it is for us to work together to provide for our community. We continuously strive to improve our community connections and this award helps to show that we are connecting with the community organizations in a positive manner to make a difference in the lives of others.

Since the time I have been involved with Healthy Start I have seen how the Sharks Foundation has evolved. The Sharks Foundation does so many great things for our community and we are happy to be involved with such an inspiring organization that has an incredible impact on our community.

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