SALT LAKE CITY — Hundreds of families gathered in Salt Lake City Friday for the state's largest free health care clinic.
The medical help "means a lot," said LaTiffani Johnson, who visited the clinic with her young daughter. "It's very helpful when you don't have much."
The Horizonte Instruction and Training Center bustled with community members and volunteers speaking an array of languages. Attendees received free child care, health screenings, dental care, women's services and immunizations. Volunteers also passed out free bicycle helmets to kids and car seats to their parents.
The clinic will also be open Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Ahead of anticipated Immigrations and Custom Enforcement raids, Gov. Gary Herbert and Salt Lake Police Chief Mike Brown in April have declared the clinic a safe place for all community members.
"There's definitely been a fear, just with our current political climate, of people being afraid of raids or if their status is going to be made public by going to this event. However, it has been declared a safe place. We want anyone to come, whether you're an immigrant or refugee, despite if you're maybe an illegal immigrant or if you're not," said Erin Jelmini, a Junior League spokeswoman at the clinic.
"That information is not going to be given here at all, so you don't have to give ID or insurance, so there's no fear of letting that get out into the community."
That is why the organization had the clinic declared "safe," she said.
Johnson said she benefited from "basically everything" at the event.
"I went over there about child care for her, and then we had a physical, we both did, and then we had a medical exam. I got my blood pressure and everything checked, and my cholesterol. It's been good and helpful to know where my body is," she said.
About 17 language interpreters helped people communicate at the event, according to volunteer Jennifer Kelsey. The yearly clinic usually serves about 3,000 people.
Many at the event said getting new car seats for their kids filled a true need.
"The car seat's just really helpful because for me, I can't afford one. And I know he has outgrown his. And they're able to provide that," April Lucas said of her son.
"It was nice. They had a lot of activities. They engaged with my kids, too, and they had that free day care," Lucas said.
But she said the most impactful part of the event was the people there offering all kinds of help. "They were really friendly. They were, like, come over here. We have this for you and your child."
For volunteer and interpreter Axel Sanchez, who helped pass out bicycle helmets, the "community" feeling of the event is what made it special.
"Just everyone that's here, it's all volunteers. … Everyone that's here is just like passionate and motivated. They want to help people. And the people that come here are people that probably wouldn't go seek out any kind of medical attention," Sanchez explained.
Several community organizations participated in the event, which was held by the Junior League of Salt Lake City. The budget for the event was about $250,000 for the weekend, organizers said. Last year, about 800 volunteers helped out and this year's numbers were expected to be similar.
Without fail, as each child received a new helmet, they had big smiles and told the volunteers about their love for riding bikes.
Rita Mosquera, who went to the event for her second year, said through a translator that it was "a really great experience."
"It means a lot because I don't have the money to pay for medical services, and they give you everything here," she said. "It's just a lot of help, and I'm really grateful."
Daniel Lee, who was there with his wife and little girl, said, "We got the helmet for the little kids, and also we are waiting for a turn to get a car seat."
"Yeah, she really likes" the helmet, Lee said of his daughter. "It really helps, especially for the kids. Because we need to make sure she gets the safety equipment, and so on, so she can go around safely. We really appreciate the things that they are doing."
Brittany Ward said she and her kids go to the event every year. She agreed with others that the car seat makes the biggest difference.Comment on this story
"It's really helpful with the car seat program for them. And then knowing their weight and their height, so that's the most important to me," she said after her two boys performed activities with blocks to see if they qualify for help from DDI Vantage, which provides early intervention and Head Start programs for children and families.
"This is a great time for our families who may not be able to qualify or have the money to see a medical need like hearing or vision, so they're able to come here and have the service for free," said Raquel Webster, a facilitator with DDI Advantage.