WATERVILLE — One by one, Ellen Thorne dumped 11 teaspoons of sugar into a small empty apple juice container, the mound of sugar at the bottom representing how much was in one serving of what’s typically considered a healthy beverage.

Thorne, 21, a University of Maine at Farmington student, and fellow volunteer and UMF student Jenna Williams described the reaction Saturday at Thomas College from people watching the demonstration, especially parents, when they saw the amount of sugar in the soft drinks and juices spread out on the table.

“It’s important to have that interaction between age groups on these health issues,” said Williams, 21. “Just by seeing it like this really shows them the problem.”

The demonstration by the two nutrition students was one of dozens at the 17th annual Inland Hospital World of Women’s Wellness event, a daylong affair that promotes healthy living and medical advice to hundreds of women each year. About 500 people attended, officials said.

“It’s a place where women can get together under one roof and find local resources and good and reliable health information,” said Sara Dyer, Inland’s director of community relations.

Dozens of community organizations donated time and resources, including eye screenings from Kennebec Eye Care and Walmart; healthful eating and lifestyle information from Hannaford Bros., Champions Fitness Club and Barrels Community Market; and several opportunities to be pampered, including massages from Agora Salon and Day Spa and hair styling from Prime Cut Salon.

“Awareness is key, because we can’t do anything if we’re not aware,” said Sue Bradshaw, a Belgrade resident who has attended the annual event for at least the last half-dozen years.

After having a bone density screening and finishing a reflexology massage by Mary’s Massage and Bodywork, Bradshaw was heading back to the gymnasium at Thomas College, with its cooking and yoga demonstrations and most of the booths and informational material.

Bradshaw sees the event as a quintessential place to promote women’s health.

“It’s kind of scary thinking about doing these different screenings by yourself and what it may mean,” she said, “but here it’s the community coming together to ease that fear. They have materials we can take home and reference and contacts you can make to ask more questions.”

While Bradshaw said there was some self-motivation in maintaining a healthy lifestyle year-round, the annual Inland Women’s Wellness event is a perfect impetus for women to come together.

“I think it’s good that a lot of women come in groups or with friends so they can keep each other motivated year-round,” she said. “You’re accountable.”

While medical information and awareness was the main purpose, committing to a healthy lifestyle was an ongoing theme, according to Dyer.

“The motto this year is ‘It’s a Jungle Out There,’ and we need to break down the barriers on how to maintain good health,” Dyer said. “We need to make the healthy choice the easy choice.”

One way in demonstrating that was with Hannaford registered dietitian Mary Lavanway, who, with the help of Hannaford employees, cooked several healthful dishes for sampling, including salmon and pork. She also put on two demonstrations, “Putting the Fast back in Breakfast” and “Real Food, Real Easy.”

“I think people want some really good trustworthy knowledge and information about healthy lifestyles, and they want to be an advocate for their own health,” she said. “So they’re coming to something like this to gain knowledge and gain information and to find resources to go back to.”

For Barrels Community Market manager Melissa Hackett, eating healthfully goes hand in hand with a health fair.

“An event like the wellness fair, food is wellness,” she said. “I take the approach that food is fuel and you have to think about your body and what you’re putting into it, because it matters.”

Jesse Scardina can be contacted at 861-9239 or at:

jscardina@centralmaine.com

Twitter: @jessescardina