Healthy Learners began in 1992 out of concern for the children in Richland County who were falling through the cracks of our health care system and were going without needed medical services. Founded by Providence Hospitals and in collaboration with concerned community leaders and representatives from the public school system, Health Reach was created to address this need. In the year 2000, Health Reach was renamed Healthy Learners.
Healthy Learners began primarily as a vision services program which later expanded to offer other health care services including hearing evaluations, dental care, counseling, assistance with prescription medications and response to episodic illnesses. Over the years, the organization has grown tremendously in response to the need and is now serving over one hundred public schools in Allendale, Dillon, Fairfield, Georgetown, Greenwood, Lexington and Richland counties.
Al Pollard, a local attorney who responded to the call to meet the health care needs of children “falling through the cracks” in the Columbia area and is credited as one of the founders of the Healthy Learners program.
“Like many, my heart aches when I see children who are not getting the health care they desperately need. Years ago I was honored to help start the charity which eventually grew into Healthy Learners. Back then we focused on eye care, and we quickly saw the need for a comprehensive health care program. Now, we are so grateful that more than 75 partners have reached out, touching the lives of thousands of children in our community.” Willam A. Pollard, Esq.
Major Milestones: 1992 – 2018
1992: The Duke Endowment awarded a $350,000 grant to Sisters of Charity Providence Hospitals, which was the official beginning of Health Reach. Services were provided to five inner city schools in Richland School District One.
1995-1998: The program expanded into three additional school districts in the Midlands greatly increasing the number of elementary age students served and number of services provided. As a result, the Health Reach provider network was expanded to meet the increased demands and needs of students served as these additional schools were added.
1995: Addition of 9 elementary schools in Richland School District Two and addition of 3 schools in Lexington School District Four.
1997: Addition of 9 elementary schools in Lexington School District Two.
1997: A three-year grant from the Sisters of Charity Foundation provided financial stability.
This grant also helped establish a Temporarily Restricted Fund that assisted in the sustainability of established programs.
1998: The Health Reach model was replicated by Tuomey Healthcare System in Lee County.
1999: A formal Advisory Board was established signaling the organization’s maturity.
2000: Program name changed from Health Reach to Healthy Learners. Healthy Learners received the David W. Robinson Catalyst Award from the Central Carolina Community Foundation.
2002: Healthy Learners received a substantial three-year grant of $600,000 from The Duke Endowment to meet the current program needs as well as to expand the program to serve 17 more elementary schools, bringing the total number of schools served to 57.
2005: In January, expansion of current program to include services to middle school students in the four district Midlands program area. In August, Healthy Learners expanded to three (3) new regions in South Carolina (Allendale, Dillon and Greenwood) which created a state-wide initiative. A three-year grant of $225,000 annually from The Duke Endowment along with two gifts totaling $500,000 from BlueCross Blue Shield of South Carolina provided the seed money needed to establish the three expansion programs. Financial support was also received from other statewide funders including Self Regional Healthcare, Self Family Foundation and The Fullerton Foundation. Regional Advisory Boards in the expansion program areas were established.
2006: Healthy Learners was selected to receive the Achievement Citation, the most prestigious award from the Catholic Health Association. Also, Healthy Learners received the NOVA award from the American Hospital Association and the Irma P. Ramos Excellence in Hispanic Community Services Award.
2007: Healthy Learners received the Early Childhood and Basic Health Care Initiative Award from Healthy South Carolina Challenge and Governor Mark Sanford, and the Unsung Hero Award from EdVenture Children’s Museum. Restructuring of the Advisory Board into the current Board of Advisors along with the establishment of 5 active committees and the establishment of a separate Midlands Advisory Board took place. Establishment of a formal Research and Program Evaluation component of the Healthy Learners program took place.
2008: Expansion of Healthy Learners Dillon program to include Dillon School Districts One and Three. Sisters of Charity Health System Ministry Development Corporation approved Healthy Learners expansion into Georgetown County – opening January 2009.
2009: Healthy Learners Georgetown program opened serving all schools in Georgetown County.
2010: Healthy Learners transitioned from an advisory board to an official governing Board of Trustees.
The first meeting of the Board of Trustees was held September 28, 2010.
2011: Healthy Learners named Coach Ray Tanner, University of South Carolina Head Baseball Coach the first Champion for Healthy Learners award recipient.
2013: Healthy Learners named Judi Gatson, WIS-TV Anchor, as the 2013 Champion for Healthy Learners award recipient.
2014: Expansion of Healthy Learners Greenwood program to include School District 52 (Ninety-Six). Healthy Learners named Michael A. Younginer, Younginer Engineered Products LLC, as the 2014 Healthy Learners Champion for Children award recipient.
2015: Healthy Learners named Jim and Anne Hart as the 2015 Healthy Learners Champion for Children award recipient.
2016: Healthy Learners Greenwood expands to include School District 51 (Ware Shoals). Healthy Learners names Dawn Staley, University of South Carolina Women’s Basketball Coach, as the 2016 Healthy Learners Champion for Children award recipient.
2017: Celebrates 25 years of service to children with unmet health care needs (58,741 vision, dental and other health-related services provided to 12,644 students). Healthy Learners named Van Hauser, Senior Project Manager, LCK as the 2017 Healthy Learners Champion for Children award recipient.
2018: Healthy Learners Midlands expands to include Fairfield County School District.
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