More than 200 students and parents from the Tehachapi Unified School District walked to the free children’s mobile immunization program put on by Adventist Health, just in time for the first day of school next week.

“It’s very nice, you don’t get too many things like this, especially for people who don’t have insurance,” said Tehachapi resident Myiena Alexander, whose daughter Brittney attends Jacobsen Middle School.

Vaccines were offered free of charge Friday to children under the age of 18, who either didn’t have insurance, were enrolled in Medi-Cal, or are of American Indian/ Native Alaskan ethinicity.

Students who arrived early received a free backpack stocked with school supplies.

The backpack drive is a collaboration between Adventist Health Bakersfield and AHTV. Emergency Department nurses in Bakersfield began the project last year, and invited Tehachapi to join this fall. In just three days, employees in Tehachapi raised more than $2,500 in backpacks and supplies, said Harold Pierce, AHTV's communication manager.

The fundraiser began as a way to give back to the community. They remembered receiving backpacks themselves from other organizations.

“It was nice that we challenged the whole hospital and we were able to raise donations from all employees. With the funds, we were able to collect more than 380 backpacks filled with school supplies,” said Nancy Bulat, an emergency department charge nurse in Bakersfield.

Bulat said Adventist Health Bakersfield Emergency Room unit secretary Deann Hernandez encouraged other employees to donate backpacks or funds. In 2018, the private fundraiser helped children in Shafter and at a homeless shelter in Bakersfield.

This year employees partnered with Adventist Health to hand out backpacks during the immunization program, and they will also go on to Boron and the Greenfield Union School District.

“We have supplied them with everything they need to start the new year with a smile,” said Peter Galvan, a registered nurse with Adventist Health.