The Southern District YMCA has an initiative: to make the healthy choice the easy choice. We understand this is a big undertaking, but we’re determined to do so. We’re starting small and communicating this message to the children we serve in our school age child care programs at our 15 locations in south eastern New Hampshire. Children are participating in gross motor physical activity for at least 30 minutes each day through structured all-inclusive games implemented through CATCH Kids Club (CATCH stands for coordinated approach to child health). We are also supplying nutritious afternoon snacks at our after school programs including, but not limited to carrots, strawberries, grapes, apples, whole grains, low fat milk and more. Children are being introduced to vegetables and fruits they’ve never tried before and are having fun in the process.
At our after school program in North Hampton, one little boy shined bright during my visit on Tuesday, October 24th. His name is Tyler and he is in kindergarten. Tyler is an energetic, kind, and funny little boy. His grandmother picks him up from the program 3 days a week and she and I were able to spend some time talking. She shared that Tyler used to prefer unhealthy food. He had never eaten apples and wouldn’t try turkey. Now, he eats all different turkey meals with his grand parents and came home from program one day recently exclaiming that he had tried an apple – and liked it! His grandmother shared with the North Hampton Site Director that since he started in the after school program, Tyler had already lost 5 pounds! She praises and applauds our efforts in our after school program and is in agreement with our healthy motives.
All of this was wonderful to hear, but nothing was as wonderful as what I witnessed with my own two eyes. The group headed outside for outdoor play and physical activity. The children were guided to start their outdoor play by warming up their bodies through walking around the track. All of the children started walking around the track, except one: Tyler. He asked if he could run and then began to do so. This was especially surprising as just a couple weeks prior he struggled to walk the track. As he turned the corner to complete his first lap he exclaimed, “Look, I ran the whole way!” We cheered him on and encouraged him to keep going. Another little boy stated that he would help Tyler by running backwards in front of him. My eyes welled up as I watched one little boy jog backwards to support Tyler as Tyler kept his pace and jogged along. When they rounded the corner to complete their last run, high-fives and celebratory words were given. My heart swelled and I knew in that moment that the work we do for children in our communities is invaluable and I’ll continue in these efforts along with the Y for as long as there are kids to serve.