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Community parades: Fun is essential to good health

A group of people in orange CareOregon shirts gathered in front of a parade float with a large birthday cake and sign that reads CarerOregon

For 30 years, CareOregon has worked tirelessly to fulfill a serious mission—but that doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten that part of building healthier communities is having fun.

We’ve embraced Portland’s parades in recent years: as the title sponsor for the CareOregon Starlight Parade, as well as participating in the Grand Floral Parade, the Junior Parade, Pride, Good in the Hood and Juneteenth.

We love the magic, the pageantry and the opportunity to not only champion community health but bring a sense of fun to the streets of Portland.

“We know that good health is about more than doctors’ appointments, it’s about our communities, too,” said Alison Arella, Vice President of Community Impact at CareOregon. “That’s why we participate in these parades—we believe having fun and having fun together is essential to good health.”

In 2024 we showed that commitment in dramatic ways: with an 8-foot-tall octopus DJ, a larger-than-life birthday cake to celebrate our 30th anniversary—and a reenactment of the classic parade scene from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

But our parade participation is more than just a display of themed floats and dance troupes. It’s a commitment to be present in the community we serve. In addition to building out our parade floats and marching and dancing with our neighbors, we also spotlight a partner each year whose mission aligns with our own.

This year, that partner was Trillium Family Services, a state-wide organization that provides mental health services for families.

In 2022, as our community continued to navigate the challenges of the pandemic, CareOregon kicked off the Starlight Parade with a float that paid tribute to frontline workers. They were honored with the theme “Everyday Heroes Build Healthy Communities.” The float featured four larger-than-life avatars of “everyday heroes” replete with capes and props. Each avatar represented an organization that helped our community weather the pandemic, including Portland Fire & Rescue’s Community Health Assess and Treat, Housecall Providers, Our Village Gardens and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland Metropolitan Area.

In 2023, we took a nostalgic trip back to the ‘80s with our community partner 4D Recovery at the CareOregon Starlight Parade. Our float was a vibrant homage to a decade of bold colors and lively music. Dancers grooved to iconic tunes, and our staff, friends and family members came together to create an atmosphere of pure joy and nostalgia.

That year, we also partnered with Mudbone Grown to bring the theme "Fresh Food for Absolutely Everyone" to life at the Grand Floral Parade. Our whimsical food float, bursting with colorful fruits and vegetables, highlighted the importance of access to nutritious food for all. It was a celebration of health, wellness and the joy that comes from nourishing our bodies and communities.

“At CareOregon, we believe that health and happiness go hand in hand,” said Shawn DeCarlo, CareOregon Director of Community Impact. “Being able to be downtown, engaging the community and celebrating each other year after year, that’s what these parades are all about. We look forward to many more years of celebrating together, lighting up the night and building a healthier, happier Portland and Oregon for absolutely everyone.”

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