Club challenges kids to be healthyPublished 9:32pm Monday, October 21, 2013
On a recent Thursday afternoon, students at Hillpoint Elementary School ran laps outside, sprinted in races and learned about portion sizes and the importance of choosing water over sugary drinks.
The after-school event was the last session for the school’s Challenge Club, an Obici Healthcare Foundation-funded initiative that was in its fourth semester.
The clubs at each elementary school meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays for four weeks. Children were invited to participate and receive free, healthy snacks and water, set goals to attain, learn about healthy eating and participate in at least 60 minutes of fun physical activities.
“I just think it is really important, because it gives the kids time to be with their peers and set personal wellness goals for themselves without pressure,” said Lisa Belcher, Challenge Club facilitator. Her position, along with stipends for the leaders and needed equipment, is funded through the grant.
Subway sponsors the snacks, giving a four-inch sub for each child at each session at each school. That’s thousands of subs during the course of each semester — and they even deliver to most of the schools, Belcher said.
“Subway has generously given us the food for free this year,” Belcher said. “Bristy Ball (vice president and director of operations for Magnum Enterprises, which owns most of Suffolk’s Subway restaurants) has been great.”
The children fill out questionnaires on the first and last session of each Challenge Club to measure how much they have learned about exercise and proper nutrition.
Participants are taught, for example, that a portion size does not exceed what they can fit in their cupped hands.
“We teach them simple things like that they can remember,” Belcher said.
The 60 minutes of physical activity go by quickly for the kids, she added.
“They don’t even know it’s exercise,” she said. “They think they’re playing games.”
Some students have seen measurable success, such as losing weight and being able to run longer. The focus is on meeting their personal goals, Belcher said.
“It goes along with the whole wellness program,” she said. “It’s been really good.”