Thousands of people will be standing in line to get into the Wise County Fairgrounds this weekend. It's where the nation's largest Remote Area Medical clinic is held, and it means free health care for anyone in need.
Before these patients can ever see the doctor or dentist, hours of preparation must be done by those who aren't getting paid a dime.
Many like Careena Edwards were sitting and waiting outside the Wise County Fairgrounds one day before the Remote Area Medical clinic opens its gates Friday morning. "The later you wait to get in, there's so many people that comes in if you don't get in then you don't get seen," said Edwards.
But inside the fairgrounds Thursday, almost no one was sitting still. "We've got the Virginia Dental Association. They're bringing in all these dental units. We've got RAM headquartered out of Knoxville. They're bringing in some eye equipment [and] dental equipment," said Teresa Gardner, executive director of the Health Wagon and a local RAM coordinator.
It's a labor of love that takes over a year to fully plan, including weeks of fairground preparation and a full day's worth of manual labor for setup alone. "It's unprecedented community collaboration that comes out of this event," said Gardner.
News 5 found out 200 volunteers are setting up 80 dental chairs, over 75 tables, and box after box of medical and dental supplies. "It's pretty physical, honestly," said volunteer Miranda Okubo. "There's a lot, [and] everything's heavy."
Volunteers are also bringing in food by the tons. We found out they'll be serving about 4,000 lunches, 2,500 breakfasts, and around 15,000 drinks during the course of the weekend.
Preparation is not complete without cleaning everything once it’s assembled. It's a tedious process, but one volunteer said is well worth the effort.
"It definitely is worth it at the end just to see the smile on people's faces once they've gotten [rid of] their pain," said volunteer Anna Rollins.
"It's a good feeling, because I think people definitely appreciate it," Okubo added.
We learned more facts about this weekend's RAM clinic in Wise. Organizers tell us about 1,400 volunteers from 250 organizations will be donating their time and services this weekend. Patients are offered free medical, dental, and vision care. Gates open between 5:30 and 6:00 a.m. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning.