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Childhood Obesity Targeted

HUNTINGTON — “It’s awesome — really cool and you get an awesome workout.”

That’s how 8-year-old Ryan Woodward, a student at Our Lady of Fatima School, described the new fitness equipment designed just for kids at the Huntington YMCA. The Y, along with Cabell Huntington Hospital, St. Mary’s Medical Center, Marshall’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine and Cabell County Schools, unveiled Tuesday a new program they’re implementing to help kids fight childhood obesity.

It’s call Kids in Motion, and it incorporates state-of-the-art electronic games that promote fitness, as well as a nutrition program for kids and families and a comprehensive plan for children to help them incorporate healthy foods and wellness activities into their daily lives.

It will be offered at the Y’s Phil Cline Family YMCA in the back of the old Huntington High School building off 9th Street. It will start with a six-week Kid Fit program beginning in November, and continue with a more intensive 12-week Kid Fit program in January.

“If the YMCA isn’t the place to go, we don’t know where is,” said Dan O’Hanlon, president of the board at the Huntington YMCA.

The program features $100,000 worth of equipment for the kids and over the next 10 years will represent a $1.2 million initiative to fight childhood obesity, he said.

Children ages 5 to 14 who are overweight or obese will get dibs, and parents can contact program director Jamie Berry at the Y at 304-697-7113 to sign up their children. Cabell County Schools will get involved by having physical education teachers identify students who might benefit from the program and privately send some information home to their parents about it, said Sharron Chenault, curriculum supervisor for fine arts, which is over the physical education program. School nurses and local physicians may make referrals as well.

It costs $25 for the six-week Kid Fit program and $60 or $85 for the 12-week Kid Fit program, depending on whether the child is a Y member. A 12-week Family Fit program begins in January for $40 a month as well.

“What I think is great is that any child not financially able to do this will get a scholarship, and so they won’t turn anybody away,” Chenault said. “That’s what is most significant to me.”

Using the equipment up until now have been kids involved in the after-school program at the YMCA, thanks to a grant from United Way of the River Cities.

The equipment they’ve been using includes iDance, which is similar to Dance Dance Revolution, as well as T-wall, in which players touch circles as they light up in various sequences. There’s also a cycling game with a video screen, a jumping game, a boxing game, a climbing game and others.

Woodward and two other children who were demonstrating the equipment at a press conference on Tuesday were winded at the end of each game.

Most of the games are from the company Motion Fitness and are focused on cardiovascular health with some other muscle groups worked into each activity, said Rachel Stewart, who is assisting Berry in teaching the program.

The kids are “super excited about it. They love it,” she said. “They don’t want to leave.”

Berry said getting to play the games has been a reward for good behavior for kids in the afterschool program, and some of the kids have shed tears if they didn’t get to play.

It’s been going really well with kids in the afterschool program, particularly those about age 7 to 10, Berry said.

“They’re aware that they’re working out, but they’re having fun,” he said. “I’m excited about the opportunity and the success we’re beginning to see.”

Overseeing the program is a board of directors. Its members are endocrinologist Dr. James Bailes from Cabell Huntington Hospital; pediatrician Dr. Eric Willis from St. Mary’s Medical Center; David Sheils, president of the St. Mary’s Medical Center Foundation; Doug Sheils, director of strategic marketing at Cabell Huntington Hospital; Jennifer Plymale, director of the Robert C. Byrd Center for Rural Health and associate dean of admissions at Marshall’s medical school; Dr. Joseph Shapiro, dean of Marshall’s medical school; retired Marshall Professor Ken Ambrose; John Sutherland, executive director of the Big Green Scholarship Foundation; and Troy Brown, former Marshall University and New England Patriots wide receiver.

Also on board are Dutch Miller Chevrolet, which donated a van that can be used to take mobile equipment to the schools, and Food Fair, which has agreed to give grocery store tours, coupons and gift cards to the families involved to get them focused on healthy foods.

The program is still looking for corporate sponsors as well as individuals and organizations that would like to get involved, O’Hanlon said.

Source: Herald Dispatch

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