Summer is on the horizon, and area children had an opportunity to get a head start on staying physically and mentally fit during the offseason.
On Saturday, the Jamestown Area YMCAs, along with 1,900 other YMCAs throughout the nation, celebrated the YMCA organization’s annual Healthy Kids Day. The event was free to the community, and encouraged area children to “get moving” and help families live healthier.
The event, which saw approximately 150 children and their families participate, ran from 1-3 p.m., and featured several educational and physical activities. The activities included: the Big Challenge inflatable obstacle course, a basketball shootout, jump rope, a math contest, nutrition games, giveaways, prizes and “Zumbatomic” exercises for kids.
Each activity station was designated with a number. Upon entry, the children were given a “Passport to Wellness,” which included each station number. The kids were then encouraged to travel to each activity station in order to receive stickers to place in their passports, indicating which stations were visited. Upon completion, the passports were handed in, along with surveys filled out by the parents, to make them eligible for prizes at the end of the event.
According to Gina Bloomquist, school-age and family director, the event was also intended to raise awareness about summer programs hosted at the YMCA.
“We want families to come in, and take part in our organization, and realize everything that we have to offer,” she said. “Because a lot of times, they look at the Y as just a place to exercise, and we’re so much more.”
Additionally, the summer programs will help the children to retain some of the knowledge learned in school that may otherwise be lost over the summer break.
“When kids are out of school, they forget a lot and lose a lot of what they had learned throughout the year,” said Bloomquist. “In our summer camp programs, we have Chautauqua Striders tutoring coming in, and they’re going to be doing fun academic games and literature activities with the kids-so they don’t feel like they’re in school, they’re having fun and learning.”
She added: “We also want the kids to be physically active. A lot of times, they are sitting home and they’re not getting those gym classes each week like they are at school. Our No. 1 goal is getting them in here, sharing fun academic games with them and exercising.”
Research has shown that, without access to out-of-school physical and learning activities, kids fall behind academically and gain weight twice as fast during the summer months. According to the latest findings of the YMCA’s Family Health Snapshot-a survey of parents that gauges their children’s activity levels during the school year-only 19 percent of children get 60 minutes of physical activity, 17 percent read books for fun, and 12 percent eat at least eight fruits and vegetables on a daily basis.
Also on hand were representatives from Jamestown’s Bob Evans Restaurant, which provided grilled chicken, carrots and grapes for the event. According to Jordan Strong, restaurant business development manager, the restaurant chose to participate in Healthy Kids Day as part of a corporatewide initiative.
“We launched this new initiative called ‘Kids Live Well,’ and we found out about this wellness program that (the YMCA) has for children,” said Strong. “I truly believe that if you’re involved in your community, your community will be involved with you. And I think they’ve learned that, with childhood obesity and everything going on, it starts when you’re young. So, Bob’s is really glad to be a part of this program, and we’re in 100 Y’s nationwide so we can just give back. We want to show families that they can come out and be a family again, and go out to eat, enjoy themselves and have a healthier choice for children and a free activity.”
YMCA’s Healthy Kids Day is supported by WCA Care and Share, the Gateway Center and the Morton Club. In addition to Bob Evans, other local organizations and vendors involved with Healthy Kids Day included: Fidelis PPM, the Masonic Lodges of Chautauqua County, the Girl Scouts of Western New York, Chautauqua Striders and the Chautauqua County Health Department.