Empowering the youth of St. Louis
The St. Louis Kids Expo brings community resources for kids and families under one roof for one weekend in October
By Charlotte Beard
For several years many community resources for kids and families have come together for one weekend under one roof to empower individuals with the tools needed to help them succeed in their daily lives. Some of the partners among those resources have been Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, Proctor & Gamble, Color Coded Kids, Aetna, Sterling Bank, and UMSL – Center of Behavioral Health, just to name a few of the many.
For the ninth year, this St. Louis Kids Expo (SLKE) will take place Oct. 19 and 20, 12 – 5 p.m. at North County Recreation Complex located at 2577 Redman Road. Admission to the expo is free, with exception to food available for purchase from the complex’s concession stand and other vendors still being finalized.
Anthony Clair, Founder and President of the St. Louis Kids Expo states, “Though we had been charging $3 at the door we’ve given thousands of tickets away to schools, churches, and organizations. It’s not major revenue; 75 percent to 85 percent of the people who (have) come to the expo (have) had free tickets.”
This year’s current expo sponsors are Sterling Bank, Gateway Region YMCA, and Healthy Schools Healthy Communities. ABC30 is a media sponsor. These sponsors will also be exhibitors at the expo along with Affinia Healthcare, F.I.T. Martial Arts, Home Depot, Missouri WellCare, St. Louis County Library, St. Louis County Police, and St. Louis Zoo. In addition, Hazelwood School District, Jennings School District, and Ferguson-Florissant School District will be exhibitors for STEM and Robotics education. Sponsorship and Exhibitor applications are still open.
Phedra Nelson, Healthy Schools Healthy Communities’ Community Wellness Director and representative for Gateway Region YMCA shared that the YMCA has been a sponsor for the past four years.
“This is an awesome annual youth empowerment event that gets better every year and most of all this type of environment is greatly needed in our community. Mr. Clair has intentionally created a weekend that is designed to better enhance our next generation.”
Clair states, “(Attendees) will be able to (empower themselves) by visiting over 50 exhibitors with information (regarding) mental health, vendors with products and services for healthy eating, etc. We will have inflatables inside and outside, positive entertainment on the stage, and speakers.”
Tiffanie Stanfield, SLKE’s Entertainment Director, shared that the entertainment for the expo is still being finalized, which is not limited to youth vocalists and rappers, as well as speakers and panelists to support this year’s theme – Educate-Economics-Exercise. The co-hosts will be local vocal artist, Deidra DeNeise and comedian Don Clair from St. Louis. The expo’s fashion show is an annual standard which is facilitated by a chosen local designer coupled with a theme. Stanfield stated that one year the show featured designs that promoted career-wear.
“Our talent isn’t just there to entertain; that’s only one portion of it,” stated Stanfield. “Our talent is there to for you to receive something to take with you that is going to be the betterment of you. Our goal is to leave you better than we found you when you entered our doors. I get calls from some parents that want me to put kids on stage but what they are looking to do doesn’t tie into our theme. There are a lot of people who do not run a show like (this). I am very selective about what we put on (stage).”
The idea for the expo originated from Clair’s ‘Time for Fun’ events with inflatables that he hosted for churches, municipality events, schools and health care companies. He discovered a need for better entertainment and healthy food options among youth. In the quest to start an annual event that would showcase resources, services, activities and products that would impact members of the community, he sought out a facility and solicited community resources to combine with positive entertainment.
“In 2011 I moved forward (with) the St. Louis Kids Expo,” stated Clair. “I wanted to have a theme. Every year that theme (has been related to) education, money, and health. Last year was Family-Finance-Fitness. This year is Educate-Economics-Exercise. We try to stick to those three components with family issues.”
Stanfield shared, “This is my ninth year as the Entertainment Director. Initially when I started it was a stage management (role) – to come in and put the pieces together. However, because of my community activism and being an advocate for resources for our youth and young adults, I found myself tying the reasons why the expo exists to the entertainment stage. It started to consist of a little bit more than just managing the stage, which is a little bit different.”
Another component of the SLKE, is to display entrepreneurialism among youth. Clair stated that entrepreneurs and various businesses will be available to showcase and sell their products and services.
“The youth entrepreneurship impact alone stands out and shows our youth are inherently entrepreneurial,” stated Nelson. “They focus on something that they really want, then start coming up with all kinds of solutions. Our youth must know that they have the same opportunities as everyone else that they can develop and be impactful.”
Clair also shared that the FDIC will be hosting a “Family-Feud” style kid’s financial game show. This a team competitive game that will allow players to win prizes. Players will be challenged to answer questions related to money and finances.
“The continuous impact will always be to assist in changed behavior as it relates to health and wellness, youth entrepreneurship, financial management, money matters, or being exposed to the community resources that are out there,” stated Stanfield. “I think those are the key impacts because there are a lot of businesses, community resources, and major companies that offer resources within their businesses (of which) the public is (unaware). So, for us to house these resources under one roof that has a specific focus for our youth and young adults, I think that has been more impactful than anything. We do have people who look forward to our event in October every year.”
CUTLINE: Submitted photos St. Louis Kids Expo (SLKE) will take place Oct. 19 and 20, 12 – 5 p.m. at North County Recreation Complex located at 2577 Redman Road.