They came by bus, on bicycles, on foot and in vehicles to the third annual Southern Illinois Health Care Foundation/Touchette Regional Hospital sponsored back-to-school event Saturday.
The event started at 10 a.m. But by 9:30 a.m., a large crowd of children and their parents had gathered and formed a long line.
Sulbrena Day, vice president of ancillary services with Touchette Regional Hospital, said each year as the two organizations host the event, they have tried to increase community awareness about the services provided.
"We also wanted to provide them with health screening for diabetes, high blood pressure and HIV testing. We a also educate them on mental illness," Day said.
The attendees received brochures on a variety of health matters.
Day said the two organizations sign people up for the Affordable Health Care Act if they are eligible or they help them apply for Medicaid.
Families appeared to be enjoying themselves when they were allowed to start moving to the various booths. Some let their children hula hoop, while others got their faces painted or used chalk to show off their creative sides with drawings they etched on the ground.
Last year, the organizations had 450 people to turn out for the event. This year, Day said they were expecting about 500.
Tamika Griffin, the mother of eight children, got up early to bring the seven who are still school aged to the event.
"I came out because I need this extra help. It's a big help to me and my family."
Griffin said she was especially happy to be able to get information about breast exams. She took her daughters with her to the booth because, "It's never to early to teach them. I think it is wise to start early," she said.
Joshua Griffin, 9, was a little shy. But the look on his face showed the happiness he was feeling inside to have the new book bag with some goodies inside.
"I got some folders, a notebook, paper crayons and a glue stick," he said, digging inside of the book bag.
He said he is ready to go back to school where he plans to do his best to be "smart."
Leah Griffin, 7, had a pretty white bow in her hair and her smile was extremely bright. "I'm glad my momma brought me and my sisters and brother here. It's fun and I got a book bag." She also said she's ready to return to school.
Tranecia Brown, 11, another one of Griffin's daughters, also said she is excited about going back to school, where she will be in the sixth-grade. She said the things she was able to get at the event "will help me out a lot. I am glad we came out."
Tony McCall brought his 9-year-old son Kenwyen Horn and some friends and their children to the event. He said he was pleased with the things that were provided at the event.
His son appeared to be very happy, too. He flashed a huge grin when he talked about his dad bringing him to the event.
Crystal Taylor, McCall's friend, said she was unemployed and very happy to get a hand with back-to-school supplies for her four children.
Day said the two groups would give out 250 book bags. And there were lots of other giveaways at various tables. The attendees also got water bottles and a free lunch.
"This is a good event," Taylor said. "It helps a lot of people out who can't afford to go to the doctor and who can't buy their children school supplies. I am very grateful."