Some say that healthier and perhaps happier living starts with finding quality, accurate health information as well as health information that is meaningful to you. One of the goals in starting this feature section is to take an in-depth look at health issues that we and our entire community face. For example, do we want to know more about how to stretch more effectively before our workouts at the Y, do we want to know what we should eat after our workouts to replenish the energy lost and to feel better, do we want to know more about how to prevent cancer, or do we want to know more about how individual Y programs are benefiting health?
Let us know what you think and what you want to know more about, and we'll try to explore those issues within our community--the Y and Williamson County--through providing interviews with key people, well-researched information, and interesting articles that will be helpful to you and your family.
Y Healthy Kids Day: Bringing Health Education to the Community in a Fun Way
May 1st, 2012
by Kira Watkins, MSHC
Two young girls and their mother approach a table filled with brimming bowls of colorful, fresh seeds, nuts, and dried fruits--ruby red dried cranberries, crisp golden almonds, and crunchy granola.
The girls smile as they point to what they want to try, and CHASCO Family YMCA personal trainer Jessica Apodaca fills a small snack bag for each of them. She tells the girls and their mother about the fiber content and health benefits of this snack.
“Today, I’m showing people a very portable, healthy snack that kids like to eat and that is fun for them to put together,” Apodaca said. “This event is about bringing people together and exposing them to health information like this. Some kids are trying these things for the first time, and their parents are seeing that. I’m showing parents and kids how easy it is to make their own healthy snack.”
At other booths at Ys around the county, kids played games to win prizes like a new jump rope, parents and kids received free health screenings, and parents learned about health services in their local communities. Families danced as musicians performed, boys and girls climbed rock walls, families learned about safety and crawled through fire trucks, and kids had the chance to ride a pony and hold rabbits. On sunny, green, grassy sports fields, kids also competed in sports like soccer and baseball.
All of this activity and health education was part of the festival-like atmosphere that consumed the county’s Ys on Saturday, April 28 for the free annual national Y event called Healthy Kids Day. The mission of this event is to help address critical gaps in health and health education by introducing local health vendors and Y services to the community as well as educating parents and kids about the benefits of healthy eating, being active, and receiving critical health screenings and care. Leading into summer, Healthy Kids Day also comes at a time when kids often need encouragement and other activities to stay healthy because they no longer have school support in those areas.
“We feel that this is a very important event that brings communities around the county together to improve health. We [St. David's Community Healthy Foundation and St. David's Round Rock Medical Center] have been the sponsors for this event in Williamson County for many years. The kids are our future, and the goal is simply to provide information to and to educate the parents and kids about the importance of healthy eating, exercise, safety, and health screenings,” Dana Keesey, Director of Rehabilitation and Community Wellness at St David’s Round Rock Medical Center, said.
AT THE TAYLOR FAMILY YMCA HEALTHY KIDS DAY EVENT…
“One of the most important aspects of Healthy Kids Day is that people get to meet with local health vendors from right here in Taylor. They also have a chance to interact, ask questions, and receive important health information,” Alan Knust, Executive Director of the Taylor Family YMCA, said. “And it’s a fun event. The kids are having a blast learning about animals and interacting with them. And they love the fire trucks and police cars.”
The Taylor event took place at the regional sports complex, near the site of the future Y to be built in Taylor. While families engaged in a number of activities, parents and their children also had a chance to meet with local health vendors and learn about all the new things Y summer camp in Taylor will have to offer this year.
“Our camps will have many fun and new things this summer, including an indoor rock wall for our Excursion Camps, which will allow us to bring the outdoors inside for kids,” Brian Unger, Senior Program Director, said. “Today one of the things we have the opportunity to do is talk with parents about all the things our camps have to offer.”
At the event, kids also learned important safety rules from local firefighters and played games at various booths while learning about the importance of exercise and nutrition.
“Like other communities in Williamson County, our community faces the major challenge of childhood obesity. The MEND program, which people can learn about at this event, is one way the Y is helping make a difference in this critical area,” Knust said.
One Taylor resident and Y member was eager to speak about her and her son’s positive experiences with the MEND program. “Diets don’t work. It’s about a lifestyle change. We [she and her son] have changed our lifestyle. My son is just 11 years old and reads every label. And I am down seven sizes. The difference is that this program is interactive. The kids are involved. And the other major difference is that the parents are educated to support the child. It can’t be just about the child. The entire family has to believe in and be a part of the healthy lifestyle change,” Isabella Tebeau, Taylor resident and Taylor Family YMCA member, said.
AT THE HUTTO FAMILY YMCA HEALTHY KIDS DAY EVENT…
“We’re calling this our first official Healthy Kids Day event,” Lisa Koen, Interim Executive Director of the Hutto Family YMCA, said. “Lowe’s let us hold our event here in their parking lot right next to the field where our community’s new Y facility will be built and we thank them for that.”
Similar to its fellow branch locations, the Hutto Family YMCA offered a wide array of fun activities to those in attendance while also joining forces with local health vendors to bring health education to parents and kids in a community in which many people are eagerly anticipating the opening of their new Y.
“I am receiving so many questions from people in the community about when our new Y will be open,” Melanie Rios, Hutto Family YMCA board member and Hutto City Council member, said. “This is an excellent partnership. We [the city] have our Let’s Move initiative, and we have our trail system. We are trying to make connections in our community for healthy living. Having a Y will give our community a place to come together and help our community grow. This event brings the community together and shows everyone what our community has to offer.”
AT THE TWIN LAKES FAMILY YMCA HEALTHY KIDS DAY EVENT IN CEDAR PARK…
Williamson County resident and Twin Lakes Family YMCA member Debbie Anglin said, “Today, I received helpful health information from a variety of vendors. They had a lot of fun things for kids to do in order to allow parents time to talk to the vendors and pick up information. I learned about some things that I had not considered before.”
Beth Prickett, Executive Director of the Twin Lakes Family YMCA, said, “One thing this event does is to bring local health-related businesses, some of which are competing businesses, together for a common cause…to help provide health education to the community. We’ve seen some of the businesses build bonds at this event and work together. We are providing information to promote youth development. Families also get a chance to see all of the programs we offer. There’s something for everyone, something to keep everyone moving.”
At the Twin Lakes Family YMCA, the sports fields were packed with kids in colorful Y jerseys playing soccer, and at the pavilions around the fields, booths offered information to parents and kids on things such as vitamins, chiropractic care, massage, and dental care.
AT THE CHASCO FAMILY YMCA HEALTHY KIDS DAY EVENT IN ROUND ROCK…
At the booth next to Apodaca’s, where kids had the chance to create their own snack from granola, dried fruits, nuts, and seeds, kids were asked to select an activity, such as pushups or jumping jacks. If they completed a certain number of their selected exercise, they received a healthy snack in return. Terian Szymczak, Senior Program Director, and Lauren Lacy, Fitness Coordinator, counted aloud and encouraged kids to complete their chosen exercise.
“The key here is exposing kids to exercise and various activities at an early age. Families that attend this event are not necessarily Y members. So, at this event, many see all that the Y and the community have to offer for the first time. They are exposed to activities that they may not have considered. And there is something for everyone here,” Szymczak said. “We are exposing kids and parents to all of the possibilities. And hopefully the kids will start an activity early. Then they are more likely to continue it for a lifetime.”
At other booths, kids received health screenings and learned how to correctly do chin-ups while challenging themselves to see how many they can do. Outside the basketball gym -- where the vendor booths were set up -- families filled the bleachers to watch and listen to live music performances and see a demonstration by Travis County Search and Rescue. Kids also had the opportunity to enjoy interactive rides to keep them active and energized.