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LOVING — Holistic health educator Celosia Arcadia is the driving force behind the West County Parent Resource Fair.

A friend's suicide inspires a local holistic health educator to develop a new event to support west county parents

The West County Parent Resource Fair sounds like a blast — fun activities for kids plus support, education and free massages for parents — but the fair was born, in part, out of a local tragedy.

The fair is the brainchild of the Cradle-to-Career Taskforce of the Gravenstein Health Action Chapter, and the director of that taskforce, Celosia Arcadia, is the driving force behind the event.

Arcadia became involved in the local Health Action Chapter after a friend in Napa, a first-time mother in the throes of post-partum depression, died by suicide, leaving an eight-month old baby behind. The method her friend chose to kill herself — setting herself on fire in the middle of an empty playground — shocked the community, especially those who knew her.

Grieving her friend’s death and looking for answers, Arcadia, a holistic health educator who teaches yoga, stress reduction and chi gong at Sonoma State University, attended one of the listening sessions that the Gravenstein Health Action Chapter held in west county last year in an attempt to suss out the community’s most pressing health needs.

When the organizers mentioned they were looking for someone to lead the group’s committee on children’s health, known as the Cradle-to-Career Taskforce, Arcadia raised her hand.

Supporting young children by supporting their parents

Arcadia said her taskforce — which includes Tasha Beauchamp (Cittaslow), Kellie Noe (West County School Board), Stephen Zollman (Library Commission Board), Adriel Ahern (Sebastopol Regional Library), Cordelia Holst (Sebastopol Community Center), Nichole Warwick (Daily Acts), and Melissa Barnett and Sherry Kane, R.N. (both part of the Resilience Collaborative) — did a lot of research and analysis before deciding what they should do to support the health of young children in west county. Ultimately they decided to create the West County Parent Resource Fair, which seeks to support the health of young children by supporting the mental and physical health of their parents.

“We cannot individualize children under 5 years old,” Arcadia said. “When we’re thinking about actions and we’re planning and strategizing, it’s unfair and inappropriate for us to individualize a baby because — guess what? — the welfare of that baby is intricately and intimately connected to the mother,” said Arcadia, who is married and has two children of her own. “They’re totally dependent.”

“I come from a family of 10,” Arcadia said. “I was talking to my mother one day and she said this amazing thing — that the day women become mothers is the day on which we as women are the most vulnerable we have ever been in our lives, having just delivered a newborn; at that same moment, we’re completely depended upon in a way that we never knew.”

“For me, getting involved in the Cradle to Career committee, I’m here for children’s wellness. I’m here to be an advocate for children and mothers, especially for single mothers,” Arcadia said.

“There are so many women who enter motherhood with their hearts so big and so excited in anticipation of the new possibilities and this love that’s bigger than anything you’ve ever known. But we don’t know the dark side of mothering, the shadow side, until we’re living it.”

A fun fair with an educational purpose

According to Arcadia, the event, which is free, will have educational panel talks, information tables and door prizes, onsite child care and fun activities for kids and adults. The main hall is going to have 15 tables from local organizations that provide supportive resources for parents and children, and there’ll be two classrooms, where most of the talks and workshops will be held.

“The YWCA is going to do a talk and Q&A on maintaining healthy relationships,” Arcadia said, including knowing the difference between a healthy relationship that’s based on equality and an unhealthy relationship that’s based on power and control.

In addition, there will be workshops on …

• Perinatal mental health

• The first 1,000 days

• Preventing trauma

• Typical development and delays

• Mind-body skills

“The Sebastopol library will be providing story time in English and Spanish, and Sonoma County Regional Parks will be leading short bilingual nature walks on the trails behind the community center,” Arcadia said. “Then there will be a room where we’ll have four massage therapists giving away free massages for moms or parents.”

The fair is being sponsored by Palm Drive Health Care District, First 5 Sonoma County, the Sebastopol Community Cultural Center and Sonoma Family Life Media.

Some of the organizations that will have information tables in the main all include River to Coast Children’s Services, the Child-Parent Institute, The Early Learning Institute, Community Action Partnership, YWCA, West County Community Health Centers, FACTS, First 1,000 Days and Sonoma County Dental Health, among others.

Reweaving a social safety net

Arcadia said her friend’s death “showed me how poor the threads of our social safety net are and that we don’t have a social fabric that catches women and holds women and their babies through painful times.”

“We should never have a world where a young single mother loses her life because of post-partum depression,” Arcadia said.

Arcadia said she and the other members of the Cradle-to-Career Taskforce are working to reweave those threads.

“I feel so thankful that I’m in a position to put these pieces together,” Arcadia said.

The West County Parent Resource Fair happens on Sunday, Sept. 15, 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Sebastopol Community Center, 390 Morris St. It will offer education, support, fun — and free massages.

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