Empowering Community Health

The Peoria area’s premier health education facility celebrates its 30th anniversary.

by Andrea Parker, Hult Center for Healthy Living
Hult Center for Healthy Living
From health fairs and youth classes to oncology programs and much more, the Hult Center for Healthy Living promotes healthy behaviors and lifestyles through education, support and wellness services.

In the fall of 1990, the Hult Center for Healthy Living opened its doors as the only health education facility of its kind in the Peoria area. After 30 years, the Hult Center continues to serve the community and its health education needs. Today, however, the facility has a much larger target population—including both youth and adults—and a larger purpose in the community. 

A Health Education Project
It all began when a pediatric cardiologist (Let’s call him Steve…) and his wife, a registered nurse (We’ll call her Patti…), relocated to Peoria, Illinois from Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1985. The city they had just left boasted an accomplished health education facility, and Steve and Patti thought that Peoria’s youth and families would greatly benefit from having a similar facility here. A charter bus trip full of community members headed to Fort Wayne to visit the McMillen Center for Health Education (now known as McMillen Health) and gather best practices. 

The work of Steve and Patti Bash was quickly endorsed and supported by the Peoria Medical Society Alliance and prominent local leaders like the late Barbara Walvoord, Dr. Richard and Ande Lister, Dr. Joan Sattler, Terry Machetti, Dr. Gerald Brookhart and the late Bill Rutherford. A few became the very first Hult Center board members—including Marvin Hult, a local businessman who was named benefactor for the facility. The project captured the attention of the Peoria City Council and other community members, and Proctor Hospital made it possible by providing beautiful land on its North Knoxville campus.

On October 28, 1990, the newly-constructed Hult Health Education Center opened its doors to the public as the Marvin Hult Health Education Center, and classes began the following January. At that time, it was one of just 12 youth health education centers in the country.

Hult Center ribbon cutting
Peoria Mayor Jim Maloof and community leaders break ground on the Marvin Hult Health Education Center, which opened on October 28, 1990. Courtesy of the Hult Center

Expanding Programs and Services
Throughout its 30 years, the Hult Center has evolved to better meet the needs of the community, including a series of mergers and expansions. In 2011 the Cancer Center for Healthy Living merged with the Hult Health Education Center, growing its offerings to include oncology programs such as oncology massage, as well as dietician and nutritional services and healthy living exercise classes. With this merger, the facility was renamed the Hult Center for Healthy Living. 

Two years later, a second local nonprofit—the Mental Health Association of Illinois Valley—was merged into the Hult Center. With this addition, the Hult Center team continued its suicide prevention awareness efforts through Whitney’s Walk for Life, an annual event to combat the negative stigmas often cast on families whose loved ones have taken their own life. Today, the Hult Center’s focus on suicide awareness and prevention is a core health education curriculum for both youth and adults. 

The affiliation of Proctor Hospital with UnityPoint Health in 2014 also encompassed the Hult Center. Under this alignment, the organization was strengthened in its mission to be the area’s premier health education facility—not only to school districts, but to communities within a 40-mile radius. 

With the support of UnityPoint Health, the Hult Center has the ability to reach youth, adults and the older adult population, offering young and adolescent health education, mental health and diabetes prevention programs, fall prevention programs, and oncology health programs. Licensed registered dieticians supervise the dietary needs of individuals with a cancer diagnosis as well as survivors, free of charge. Oncology massage services are provided right on the Hult campus, accessible and convenient for survivors, caregivers and those with a cancer diagnosis.

Stephen & Patti Bash
Dr. Stephen and Patti Bash led the community in creating an organization dedicated to promoting healthy lifestyles for individuals of all ages. Portrait by David Vernon

Into the Future
With the COVID-19 pandemic situation, in-person learning for both youth and adults has shifted, with virtual learning and remote working having become the new normal. Hult staff have been busy working to prepare online virtual learning, classroom-style setups, and building access that allows for social distancing and other safety precautions. 

What will our programs look like as we move into the future? No one really knows at this time, but we are planning for a range of possibilities. The Hult Center’s role in the community is essential, and we hope to be stronger than ever as we continue to provide premier health education—empowering people to live healthier lives—for another 30 years. Please join me in celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Hult Center for Healthy Living! PM

Learn more about the Hult Center’s programs and services by visiting hulthealthy.org.

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