WACO, Texas — Students and families from Waco ISD's Transformation Waco schools were able to visit Cameron Park Zoo's "Wild Lights" on Monday night for free.
The event also promoted health initiatives such as a telehealth partnership with Waco Family Medicine.
An estimated 1300 families registered for Monday night's evening at the zoom. Among the activities for families were a visit with Santa, a hot chocolate stand and a walk around the zoo's holiday lights.
At the front of the zoo, however, Dr. Iliana Neumann and others from the team at Waco Family Medicine were reaching out to parents about Transformation Waco's mental and physical health services.
Neumann said now is a critical time for students to have access to health care beyond just a school nurse.
"The pandemic has really affected not only physical well-being, but also mental health. A lot of our children struggle with behavioral issues,” Neumann said.
Parents can register their children for a telehealth service through Waco Family Medicine that students can reach in their school nurse's office.
“Having it on site means parents don’t have to miss work, kids don’t have to miss school, get things taken care of, and go right back to learning,” Neumann said.
Neumann also explained that having the visits available while children are at school help cut down on the financial burden of parents taking time off of work.
Vaccinations were also available to families in partnership with the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District.
Parents like Lindsey Daugherty said it was great to have so much health outreach at the community event.
"That’s what they need, more information," Daugherty said. "And it’s great at places like this, they gather and this is a great way to give them information on stuff that they don’t know about.”
Josh Wucher, chief communications officer for Transformation Waco, said the telehealth partnership is just one of many wraparound services that families can take advantage of, such as services from the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Vision Center. About 60 percent of all students are registered for at least one of them.
"We prioritize our students holistically. Their social, emotional, academic, mental health needs, and that extends to medical," Wucher said. "We have an entire coordination of care at Transformation Waco."