Helping win their healthier hearts and minds

NEWPORT BEACH — Working against the clock (a.k.a. the lunch bell), senior Abby Michaelsen walked around the circle of booths with a camera crew in tow, making sure everything was ready for the hundreds of students who would soon fill up the area.

Michaelsen, 18, was the catalyst behind the creation of Newport Harbor High School's Health Fair last year and oversaw her brainchild again at lunch Thursday.

The Health Fair was sponsored by the school's Health and Heart Club she also founded in honor of her father, who died of a heart attack when she 9.

"I thought having a health fair would be a fun way for kids to learn about being healthy," she said. "I hope the kids can correlate the fun they are having with the healthy food and lifestyle."

The Health Fair drew students during lunch to sample healthy fare from Mother's Market and Banzai Bowls, get free samples of sunscreen, sign a petition to Mayor Michael Henn to make city parks smoke-free, and see with their own eyes how much sugar is in junk food.

Events of this magnitude don't happen often on campus and have become a big deal, said senior Danielle Healy, 18, who has been in the club since its inception.

"I feel like a lot of kids are taking it seriously and getting active," she said.

Getting more exercise and learning to eat healthier is what Michaelsen hopes students will take from the fair. She hopes to show her peers that they aren't invincible and that heart disease is an epidemic.

Michaelsen makes a point to exercise often and tries to eat the foods she loves in a healthier way.

It isn't about being perfect, but making good choices, she said.

It was losing her father that got Michaelsen motivated to one day pick up the phone and call the American Heart Assn. about volunteering. Men on both sides of her family have either had a heart attack or heart-related problems, Michaelsen said.

That phone call led to the creation of the club and Health Fair at Newport Harbor. She also wants to go into a career that she can help people lead healthier lives.

"That was the best decision I've ever made because it lead me to see how much I love it," she said.

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