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Fun-filled Rally for Kids aims to strengthen family relationships

Parenting is a form of healthcare, say the leaders of a Leawood-based foundation committed to helping children navigate childhood stress.

To spread that message — and to have some fun in the process — the Raised with Love and Limits Foundation hosted its second annual Rally for Kids June 10 at Leawood’s Park Place mixed-use development near 117th Street and Nall Avenue.

Leawood’s mayor, Peggy Dunn, served as grand marshal and Fox 4 anchor John Holt emceed the event, which was sponsored by the foundation, Park Place and Shawnee Mission Health. Funds raised will benefit the foundation, which was launched in 2016 by authors Barbara Unell and Jerry Wyckoff.

Held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., the rally kicked off with a parade of red wagons led by Rumble, the drum line of the Kansas City Chiefs. Face painting, a balloon artist, a magician, a tumbling area hosted by MyGym and a musical performance by Jim Cosgrove, a.k.a. Mr. Stinky Feet, also were part of the event. School of Rock also performed and let kids try out instruments.

On the educational side, Katie Lorentz, a doctor in the internal medicine and pediatrics division of Shawnee Mission Health, was on hand to answer questions about the links between parenting and good medical care. Unell and Wyckoff, who is a psychologist, answered questions about parenting.

More doctors and other health care providers, Wyckoff said, are understanding the importance of good parenting in fighting diabetes, obesity, depression and a host of other health problems children face. The aim of Raised with Love and Limits, he said, is to help parents build strong relationships with their children and to avoid “toxic stress” experiences that can affect a child’s health their entire lives.

In addition to avoiding the kind of confrontations that can lead to toxic stress, Wyckoff said it’s key that parents and children spend more time doing activities together — not always an easy task in today’s harried world.

“Finding supportive, protective ways to support your child is critical to de-stress yourself and your child,” he said. “These are experiences that are no longer the norm for families.”

Jenny Miles, a mother of two, donated T-shirts created by her new non-profit, Humane Campaign, to support the rally. Miles, who was worked on charitable projects with Unell, said the event helped raise awareness for a topic many parents are uneasy discussing.

“Parenting is a hard job, but it’s difficult to admit that and talk about it,” Miles said. “What to do about kids who are ‘normal’ but difficult is frustrating, and it’s good to start that conversation. I love their concept of parenting, and this seemed like a great partnership.”

The Rally for Kids also included the presentation of the foundation’s first Red Wagon Leader Award to supporters Bob Regnier, president and CEO of Bank of Blue Valley, and his wife Ann.