Toni the Healthy Eating Cart stars in the Houston Art Car Parade

Toni the Healthy Eating Art Cart
Toni the Healthy Eating Art Cart

Every year in Houston, hundreds of cars, bikes, skaters, and other wheeled works of art of all shapes and sizes roll down Allen Parkway and impress spectators with their creativity.

Baylor College of Medicine will participate in the Art Car Parade this weekend with Toni the Healthy Eating Cart – a unique golf cart whose main message is “You are what you eat” and encourages its audience to eat more colorful fruits and veggies.

This year, BCM Senior Vice President and General Counsel Robert Corrigan, Jr., J.D. will drive Toni in the parade, along with Houston Texans player Brice McCain. Two students from the DeBakey High School for Health Professions will also ride in the cart because of their close ties to Toni.

BCM’s Office of Outreach and Health Disparities in the NCI-designated Dan L. Duncan Cancer Center teamed up with DeBakey students to create and maintain this inspirational art car.

“We wanted to promote nutritious eating,” says Dr. Maria Jibaja-Weiss, director of the Office of Outreach and Health Disparities, “So we told the students that this is the message we wanted to send, and that we wanted something really fun.”

Promoting a healthy lifestyle

To drive home the message of healthy eating, the “Salad Lady” often accompanies Toni to events. Art car artist Shelley Buschur, who’s also a BCM nurse in Pediatrics-Allergy & Immunology, will skate in the parade as the Salad Lady, wearing a costume she designed herself. New this year will be “Ms. Broccoli,” who will also be skating in a costume, which includes a broccoli helmet.

Dr. Jibaja-Weiss says the main audience includes kids who are elementary- or middle-school aged, but the message to consume more fruits and veggies is relevant to all ages.

When Toni makes appearances at community events, colorful keepsakes such as “You Are What You Eat” bookmarks with nutrition tips, available in both English and Spanish, are often distributed.

Toni gets a ‘facelift’

Toni was born over three years ago when Buschur collaborated with a DeBakey class and their art teacher, Treena Rowan, to create Toni.

Since then, Toni, who’s become very popular in the community according to Dr. Jibaja-Weiss, has made many appearances, including in the Main Street Drag, the Art Car Sneak Peek, a Children’s Museum event, and even a private birthday party. So this year, DeBakey students and current art teacher Neda Khan worked to give her a “facelift” – they cleaned her and provided new fruit, paint, decorations, and a revamped sign.

“She’s now ready for show time!” says Dr. Jibaja-Weiss.

Cheer for Toni in the parade

Art Car Parade weekend includes several fun events like the Sneak Peek and the Main Street Drag, but make sure to cheer on Toni in the main parade, Saturday, May 11.

The parade takes place from 1-3 p.m., but try to find a spot along Allen Parkway early to make sure you’ll be able to see the imaginative art cars heading down the street. If you see Toni, be sure to wave!

Let us know what you think of her decorations, style, and motivational message.

-By Jordan Magaziner

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