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Hog Parade Promotes Health

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The community program will take place Saturday, April 20 at 11 a.m. in Church Hill. The parade is the first of its kind to honor the late Dr. Vernon J. Harris, a Richmond physician who dedicated his career to providing health care for East End residents.

Members of three motorcycle clubs — Cobra I, Boys 2 Men and the Supreme Ladies — will ride to promote cancer education and prevention. Free cancer screenings will be offered.



The celebration recognizes April as National Minority Health Awareness Month and National Minority Cancer Awareness Week. Vernon Harris' daughter, Diane Harris, a dentist who is married to state Sen. Henry L. Marsh III, will be grand marshal of the parade.



Festivities begin at George Mason Elementary School and end at the Vernon J. Harris East End Community Health Center. Ernestine Brunson, chairwoman of the center's board of directors and member of the Supreme Ladies, says she'll ride her Honda Gold Wing. Brunson's husband rides with Cobra I. "We'll be inviting others," she says and hopes more than 30 motorcycles will join the ride. The Armstrong High School Marching Band will participate in the parade, too.



Since it opened three years ago at 719 N. 25th Street in Church Hill, the community center has expanded health care to include dental services, thanks to a $170,000 grant from the Jenkins Foundation, says Sheena Mackenzie, executive director for the Vernon J. Harris East End Community Health Center. Last week the Jenkins Foundation announced it will give an additional $30,000 to the center.



"Our mission is to make health care available for anyone regardless of how much they can pay," Mackenzie says, explaining that 60 percent of the center's patients are uninsured. Cancer screenings are important, she says.



"We should be testing earlier than we do. Often by the time their disease is detected it's advanced," Mackenzie says. "We hope that by getting people involved they'll be more inclined to follow up." — B.W.





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