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Susan Parmelee

By Susan Parmelee

Family Fest will be held on April 23 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Jim Johnson Memorial Park in San Clemente. The fun-filled day will have activities that appeal to all ages.

Families from South Orange County will enjoy live stage performances throughout the day, visit one of the many hands-on activity booths, carnival game booths or inflatable play areas, get e-bike safety tips from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, visit food trucks, and learn about community resources available to help young people thrive.

While Family Fest is a day celebrating family, it is also a fundraiser for the Wellness & Prevention Center (WPC) supporting student wellness, and it is made possible by Providence Mission Hospital’s platinum level support.

Families will have the opportunity to visit with more than 20 different wellness, fitness, nutrition, financial literacy, and youth organizations, along with other types of businesses or nonprofits. Contact the WPC to learn how you can take part.

Nonprofits are encouraged to take advantage of the special discount rates.

Family Fest will raise funds to help support student well-being while also raising awareness about youth mental health challenges in our community.

According to the 2021 California Healthy Kids Survey, one in three students in Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD) reported experiencing sadness or feeling hopeless, making the WPC’s services more important than ever.

Research shows that students who struggle with stress, anxiety, and other strong emotions often turn to alcohol and other drugs as a way to self-medicate. When students use drugs and alcohol at an early age, they miss out on learning healthier ways to work through their emotions.

The WPC was founded in 2013 by local parents wanting to improve the emotional wellness of school-aged children. What started as a school-based, drop-in center has evolved into a unique organization that provides mental health services and substance-use prevention to CUSD schools.

The WPC has mental health professionals on middle school and high school campuses and in other community locations, providing much-needed services and support during and after school regardless of insurance or ability to pay.

Young people are reporting more anxiety and depression as they feel pressure to succeed and respond to ongoing disruptions in their lives. The WPC professionals use evidence-based approaches to empower youth and families to overcome these challenges. The WPC relies on generous support from the community to deliver these services.

Currently, the WPC provides services to San Clemente, as well as the communities of Aliso Viejo, Capistrano Beach, Laguna Niguel, Ladera Ranch, Rancho Mission Viejo, and San Juan Capistrano.

Services are provided at little or no cost to students, and more than 1,000 youth and their families have been served since our doors opened.

The WPC also leads a federally funded Drug Free Community coalition designed to bring sectors of the community together to reduce youth drug and alcohol use, which is making a positive impact in our community.

Since this is the first year of this ambitious event, the WPC is relying on our passionate and dedicated community members to help make this event a success. There are many opportunities to help in planning the event, recruiting sponsors, and volunteering during the day of the event.

Volunteer opportunities include a wide array of assignments, which serve to connect volunteers with fellow peers and participants while celebrating our families. Visit wpc-oc.org/family-fest/ to learn more or contact info@wpc-oc.org, or make a direct donation at wpc-oc.org/donate.

Susan Parmelee is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and executive director of the Wellness & Prevention Center: wpc-oc.org. She can be reached at susan@wpc-oc.org.

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