LANESBOROUGH -- This year, The Berkshire Eagle is teaming up with community partners and touring musicians to present "Back to School the Healthy Way."

The family-oriented event will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday at the Berkshire Mall in the former Old Navy retail space. It will feature live music, youth dance and gymnastics performers, health screenings and more.

"We need to be engaged with our young readers," said event coordinator Warren Dews, vice president of audience development, sales and marketing for New England Newspapers Inc.

"Digital is important. Print is important. But The Berkshire Eagle is not just a newspaper, we are a community business," Dews said.

This event is free and open to the public, but donations will be accepted to help provide backpacks to be distributed to local students through the Berkshire United Way and KidZone of the Berkshires.

Performers include the Berkshires' own folk and children's artist David Grover and Pittsfield-based hip-hop and R&B group Nostalgia. Contemporary gospel artists Ayana George of the Bronx, N.Y., Zion of Savannah, Ga., and Brooklyn's Destiny Music Group -- currently all part of a Northeast tour -- will perform as well.

Members of the local Youth Alive step dance and drum group and the Pittsfield Family YMCA's gymnastics team will perform. The YMCA also will offer breakdancing and gymnastics workshops during the event.


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In addition to entertainment, the event will also have a focus on student health.

Yarmosky Pediatric Dentistry, an event sponsor, will offer health information.

Berkshire Health Systems also is a partner.

"When I talked with Ruth Blodgett [senior vice president of planning and development for BHS], she was fully supportive of the effort. Not eating healthy and keeping fit affects student learning. I know BHS is doing amazing things in the community to keep kids healthy," Dews said.

Berkshire Health Systems' Community Outreach team will provide students and families with free blood pressure screenings and an educational display on community health resources, such as smoking cessation, cholesterol classes and diabetes education.

Berkshire North WIC will have information on the Women, Infants and Children program for Berkshire County, applications for interested parties and back-to-school focused information.

The Berkshire Visiting Nurse Association will provide educational information on childhood and adult/caregiver immunizations and also information on flu vaccinations.

Information on the Newspapers In Education initiative and other members of The Eagle staff also will be on hand.