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Rogers Raiderettes, Olympian reunite at Michigan City health fair

The Rogers Raiderettes reunite Saturday for a photo in Michigan City High School's gymnasium. Olympian Barbara Jones Slater is in the center in the white shirt. The reunion was part of a health fair for the community.

It was a reunion with a purpose Saturday morning as the Health to Wealth Fair brought health education and resources to the Michigan City community.

The wellness fair, sponsored by the Community Advocates of Northern Indiana, was part of the Raiderette Reunion weekend honoring the former Rogers High School pom-pom team, the Rogers Raiderettes. About a dozen former Raiderettes attended the free event at Michigan City High School.

The health fair featured several vendors with informational booths, including Ivy Tech Community College, Franciscan Health and the Community Advocates of Northern Indiana, who provided information and resources ranging from detecting breast and prostate cancer to fighting drug addiction and improving healthy eating.

Several prominent health figures spoke at the 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. event, including a former Olympian, a fitness guru and a regional health consultant.

Guest of honor Barbara Jones Slater, the former coach of the Raiderettes and two-time Olympic gold medalist in the 4x100 meter relay, emphasized the importance of education and participation to stay healthy and involved in the community.

“I never knew that when I was 9, 10, 11, participating in track and field, it would bring me here today, still receiving accolades, still working with young people,” Slater, 80, said. “You never know where anything will take you, but you have to participate. You have to dare to be different.”

Debra Fountain, a former Raiderette and the founder of Lifer Fitness Studio in West Hartford, Connecticut, spoke about the importance of staying active regardless of your limitations.

“Don’t let your age determine what you can and cannot do,” Fountain said.

Other notable speakers included Tommy Amico, former choreographer of the Raiderettes and coordinator of the weekend’s events, and Sanford Gaylord, the regional resource consultant for the Regional Resource Network Program at the Region V office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The program, a co-sponsor of the fair, works to spread education and awareness of HIV.

Gaylord spoke about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a treatment for those who are HIV negative that helps prevent contracting HIV. Gaylord said he was happy to have the opportunity to spread health awareness to a smaller community.

“The information here is life-saving and that ripple effect will hopefully go to the community so that they can have the information to sustain themselves,” Gaylord said.

Albertine Allen, the director of the Community Advocates of Northern Indiana who organized the health fair, said she plans for the fair to become an annual event. Next year’s fair will likely take place closer to the end of summer and will feature a fundraiser to provide money to the recently announced Barbara Jones Slater Show Your Greatness Scholarship, according to Allen. The $5,000 scholarship, founded by Slater, will go toward a Michigan City High School student accepted into college.

Slater said it was “wonderful being back” in the revamped gymnasium where the Raiderettes used to practice and perform. She said her main focus of the inaugural health fair was to combine education and health and pass on the baton to the next generation of Michigan City students.

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