TAMPA - Before they could swim on Saturday, Yahaira Cruz's children first had to go through a back-to-school rite that every young student dreads.
"They have to get their shots," Cruz said of her three children, Tifani Martinez, 12, Vetsabeth Martinez, 9, and Joshua Martinez, 5.
The family spent a few hours Saturday at the Lee Davis Neighborhood Service Center, 3402 N. 22nd Ave., one of two places in Tampa that provided free physical examinations and immunization shots to students attending Florida schools for the first time.
The Hillsborough County School District is offering more opportunities for free physicals and shots in coming days.
By mid-morning Saturday, the waiting area at the Lee Davis center was standing-room only. Cruz, who moved from New Jersey to Tampa earlier this year, said she went to the center two hours early to beat the crowds.
Cruz, 40, said she told her children about a technique to lower their anxiety about getting shots.
"Vestabeth asked me what she could do to make it easier," Cruz said. "I told her to not look at the needle."
It turned out Vestabeth was the only one who needed an immunization shot; her siblings' records were up-to-date.
"I'm not getting a shot," Tifani said, teasing her younger sister.
Vestabeth was visibly nervous as she was walked into the nurse's office. She started crying and leaned away from the needle as it approached her arm.
"Look at me," Cruz reminded her daughter. "Just look at me."
It was over in an instant. A nurse gave Vestabeth a lollipop and Cruz smiled.
Now, she told her children, they can go swimming.
The school district is hosting more free physicals and shots on the dates listed below. Children must be accompanied by parents or legal guardians and immunization records are required for children to receive the free shots. No Head Start or day-care physicals are available.
? From 8 to 11 a.m. Saturday at Tampa General Hospital at Healthpark, 5802 N. 30th St., Tampa. Walk-ins only. Call (813) 844-3247 for information.
? From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 17 at the Ed and Myrtle Lou Swindle Medical Arts Center, 1601 W. Timberlane Drive, Plant City. An appointment is required; call (813) 443-3048 for information or to schedule an appointment.
? From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 17 at Eisenhower Middle School, 7620 Old Big Bend Road, Gibsonton. An appointment is required; call (813) 443-3048 for information or to schedule an appointment.
? From 9 a.m. to noon Aug. 17 at Webb Middle School, 6035 Hanley Road, Tampa. Walk-ins and physicals only, no immunization shots.