Hearts in the Park: The health fair that started small and grew into something bigger

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – There is an urgent need of resources for the homeless population in La Crosse parks, especially during a pandemic where access to resources have become scarce.

On Tuesday, Sept. 1, a health fair and donation drive is hoping to make access to those resources more readily available.

Hearts in the Park started as a small donation drive inspired by two local nurses, Katie Cramer and Holly Honish, after they a read recent article from the La Crosse Independent. When their co-workers at Gundersen Health System found out about the effort, it grew into something much bigger.

“Most of our shelters are operating at 50% capacity and we were pretty heartbroken to hear that a lot of their resources were stripped away too…a lot of life sustaining resources,” said Cramer.

Originally Cramer and Honish planned to collect donation items like food, clothing, toiletries, and medical supplies for the unsheltered population in La Crosse. In less than 24 hours, that plan turned into a citywide health fair with about 40 healthcare volunteers offering their services to those in need. The Salvation Army of La Crosse County also stepped in to offer its parking lot and areas of its building as a space for the event.

Now, those in need of medical care, including hygiene, are getting free assistance from professionals in addition to the donation drive.

“Through La Crosse’s efforts we have turned what was a donations event into a citywide health fair to help these people and bring much needed resources,” said Cramer. “It’s amazing and we’re so grateful to be a part of this community.”

Things like foot and wound care, hair cuts and beard trims will be offered. A curb side drop off will be used for community donations and resources.

Hearts in the Park takes place at the Salvation Army of La Crosse County parking lot on 8th & State Street in La Crosse, Sept. 1, from 11 a.m.- 2 p.m.