September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. Here at the Peninsula Metropolitan YMCA, we are committed to providing youth and their families with opportunities for good health and connection with one another through fitness, sports, programming, and educational opportunities. We’re working to change the direction of the course of childhood obesity by partnering with families to support them as they make healthier decisions for their present and future.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shared that nearly 1 in 5 school-age children and young people have obesity. While childhood obesity can be caused by a multitude of different factors, such as genetics, traumatic events, and eating and physical activity behaviors, its danger looms over the youth of our area and beyond. By implementing lifestyle changes and programs that support more nutritious food intake and increased physical activity, we’re taking steps forward toward implementing lasting change.
While childhood obesity poses physical health threats for children now and into their future, it can extend into other aspects of their lives as well. Childhood obesity can affect things like school performance, self-esteem, and social relationships. Fighting childhood obesity starts with awareness and ends with action.
Starting at home, you can implement healthy habits into the day-to-day life of your family this September and throughout the year. At the Y, we’re always looking for ways to make healthy habits a priority in the lives of the families and children we serve. With the Y’s 5210 program, we’re outlining an easy-to-remember way to make healthy choices fun. Implementing this program at home can help children live healthy lives and reduce the impact childhood obesity has on our community.
The 5210 Program:
5 – Five servings of fruits and vegetables each day: This gives children’s growing bodies the nutrients they need to live healthy lives and grow stronger each day. Make this switch as a family to enjoy time together while trying new meals.
2 – Two hours or less of screen time each day: Sit less, move more! Too much time spent in front of a screen, whether watching TV, being on the computer, or playing video games, can take away time from necessary physical activities. Use a timer or set boundaries each day for screen time.
1 – One hour or more of physical activity each day: Get playing and get moving! When the whole family gets involved, physical activity can be something children look forward to even more. Physical activity helps children stay healthy and works to decrease stress, improve sleep, and helps their bones and muscles grow stronger.
0 – Zero sugary drinks: Instead of drinking sodas, fruit punches, iced teas, and sports or energy drinks strive to make water your family’s drink of choice. Eliminating drinks with added sugar can reduce dental problems like cavities and prevent unwanted weight gain.
The 5210 program helps children take charge of their health by giving them a kid-friendly way to break down healthy habits. By implementing 5210 ideals into programs like youth sports, nutrition consultations, and camps, we’re working to create an environment at every Y location that supports children and families in the fight against childhood obesity. It’s a challenge nobody has to fight alone. Let’s work together to stop childhood obesity from continuing its path into adulthood.
On August 21 and 22, 104 local children participated in the Northern Neck Family YMCA’s Bright Beginnings back to school shopping program. This community outreach program provides children in need with the new clothes and school supplies necessary to start the school year with confidence and excitement.
Each child was paired with a volunteer “shopping buddy” to help them pick out their new wardrobe. The volunteers got help as well, a personalized size and shopping list from the child’s guardian to help steer buying decisions. Every Bright Beginnings team then had 60 minutes to navigate the aisles of the Kilmarnock Walmart to maximize their budget.
55 volunteers shared their time to help nurture these children. Chesapeake Bank had 15 employees participate, as well as supplying the program with school supplies and financial contributions. Rappahannock Westminster-Canterbury supplied five volunteers, and Sheriff Patrick McCranie brought together 12 volunteers from the Lancaster Sheriff’s Department, the Northumberland Sheriff’s Department, the State Police, as well as several of their family members to help. A group of YMCA board members, parents, teenagers, and YMCA staff also offered their support.
Each participating child and an additional 10 children received a new backpack filled with school supplies. In addition to their bundle of shoes and clothing, everyone, including the volunteers, was wearing a smile when they exited the store.
Since 2005, the Northern Neck Family YMCA Bright Beginnings program has helped more than 1,100 local children prepare to start the new school year ready to learn. The eligible children are identified through partnering agencies. The program is supported by individuals, organizations, and corporations.
“Unfortunately, many children in our community don’t have adequate clothes or school supplies,” said operations director, Liz Allen. “Through Bright Beginnings, our volunteers, community businesses, and funds from the YMCA’s Annual Giving Campaign, we helped over 100 children look forward to their first day of school.”
For more information about the Bright Beginnings program or other YMCA scholarship and enrichment programs, contact the Northern Neck Family YMCA at 804-435-0223 or email Liz Allen.
Forty years of assembling cars gave Colinthus Foote an appreciation for efficiency. He employs that same thinking to his fitness regimen at the Northern Neck Family YMCA. In fact, when he leaves home for the Y, his wife asks him, “Are you going to work?”
Foote has a weekday schedule; on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday he takes YES (Young Energetic Seniors), Yoga, and STEP aerobic classes. On Mondays Foote adds a Pilates class to the mix and on Fridays he subtracts the aerobics class. Tuesday’s classes include three different Yoga classes and weight training.
Foote believes that each class enhances his health and quality of life. The aerobic classes and weight training help him stay in shape as he gets older. The YES classes focus on functional fitness while the yoga classes incorporate a whole body and mind approach to wellness. Foote has gained flexibility through yoga and incorporates its relaxation techniques into his waking up and going to sleep routines.
While believing you need to “Use it or lose it,” Foote knows his body and acknowledges what he can and can’t do. Each class instructor works with him to insure exercises are performed properly and, if necessary, modified to ensure comfort and safety.
When Foote endured some health problems he gave up his pool workouts. Now, fully recovered he is looking forward to the new YMCA aquatics center opening in the fall. He has reserved a couple of time slots for water aerobics.
You won’t see Foote at the YMCA on Thursdays, that is his day to take care of chores around his home and yard. With a grin, he confesses, “I love it when it rains.”
But, rain or shine, on Thursday night Foote indulges in his passion for dancing. He goes to KC’s Crabs and Cues to dance with the Northern Neck Shaggers group. “I love to move,” says Foote, so it is no surprise that music and dancing have always been a part of his life.
In Foote’s mid-teens he attended block and basement parties in his Baltimore neighbor and discovered the joys of dancing. In his 20’s this turned into a side job as a Supersonic Sounds’ DJ. The group played dance music for weddings, events, and hosted their own club parties.
Not satisfied watching everyone else dance, Foote joined Stepping Out Productions. This stylish troupe performed elaborate dance routines at parties and stage shows.
When asked how he got from Baltimore to the Northern Neck, Foote shakes his head and says, “It’s always a woman.” Which is another way of saying he did it for love.
In fact, Foote attributes his Y “job” to his wife and daughter. After retiring, he was content doing household chores and watching television. His family, however, feared he would soon get bored of this routine and encouraged him to get out of the house more. With this encouragement, Foote took an aerobics class. Then he took another and soon Foote was taking his lunch to the Y so he could avoid driving home between workouts.
The time between classes allows Foote to run errands, spend time at the library, practice his dance moves, and model for classes at the Rappahannock Art League. He has made so many friends at these spots that his wife teases him about knowing everyone in the county.
It should not be a surprise that Foote has so many friends. Although he has a quiet demeanor, he is a people person at heart and generous with his time. He can often be seen offering a gentle suggestion to a new workout participant. At other times people come to ask him questions because they respect his knowledge and experience about a class. And, just as often someone will strike up a random conversation with him; everyone likes a kind soul with a positive outlook on life.
Jerry Horner was among the core of teachers who started Rappahannock Community College in 1971. His official role was the Head of Health and Recreation but in the early days, he helped with all the college’s student and social activities.
A gifted athlete and outdoors enthusiast, Horner taught everything from tennis and golf to canoeing and archery to bridge and square dancing. His three-day backpacking excursions and canoe trips down Dragon Run became annual rites for many area residents.
Over the decades, the community college system changed its focus from outdoor physical activities to health-oriented classroom instruction. Horner changed with the times and started sharing his knowledge inside a classroom rather than outside beneath the sun and stars.
In 2009, after 38-years at RCC, Horner retired. The proverbial dream of sitting back on the front porch and idling away the hours lasted about a week with Horner. He wanted to stay vital. To do this, Horner realized, “I had to reinvent myself.” He joined the Northern Neck Family YMCA.
At first, Horner only worked out on the weight machines. He concentrated on his form and as he says, “I was friendly but not social.” Then he saw a sign for pickleball. Curious about a sport he had never taught, Horner signed up and played when the group could get enough people for a match.
Initially, none of the players were very good. Over the years, their inexperience and rudimentary equipment have been replaced by knowledge and the latest high tech gear. Now, Northern Neck players can hold their own against anyone.
Horner says, “Pickleball is what I was looking for.” He enjoys the sport’s resemblance to a fast-paced tennis match while appreciating the benefits of playing indoors on a much smaller court.
Pickleball allows him to stay active and provides a social outlet. Although they are competitive on the court, off it, they are all good friends. The group often enjoys meals together and proclaimed their camaraderie with pickleball parties. Some have banded together to travel to pickleball tournaments outside the region. The group seems always ready to test their abilities and gain new friends.
Pickleball also allows Horner to take part in match play. He admits, “I’m still learning. I don’t have to win to enjoy it, but I don’t like to lose either.” Horner plays in most local tournaments and belongs to a Richmond league. He says, “I’m 75 but play in the 40-65 age group. I enjoy the challenge.”
As Horner spent more time at the Y he started looking for other programs to join in. Overcoming an old misconception that yoga was only for women he tried a class. He now admits, “Yoga is something he should have been doing for years. My knees and back feel so much better.” Horner now advocates for yoga and encourages others, particularly men, to try it. He believes it is not only good for the body but the classes’ energy is revitalizing.
When not at the Y, Horner tends oyster beds and raises bees. He is also planting an assortment of plants to attract the right bugs and insects for a 2-acre pollinating meadow. He says, “I don’t like to see the birds and bees that I grew up with disappear. I’m doing what I can to care for and help the environment.”
Over the decades at RCC, Horner exposed many people to discover the benefits of a healthy and active outdoor life. Now, he helps people learn pickleball and encourages them to take yoga classes. But, he says, “I’m also a student. The Y has given me the opportunity to do things I wouldn’t have had the chance to do. I’m not just sitting in a rocking chair.” Horner, offers an observation, “Life is a one-way journey. Pack your ‘bags’ well, be well-rounded, and get the most out of it.”
The Y serves a large and diverse membership group throughout its surrounding communities. Each member has the opportunity to make their Y experience their own through the programs and activities that spark their interest. As we prepare for the New Year, and all the exciting things to come, we wanted to reflect on the impact the Y has made on our members this past year. We gave members the opportunity to describe the Y. This is what they had to say:
“The staff are extremely kind, caring and professional.” ~A.S.
“It’s like my second family.” ~L.J.
“Courteous staff Friendly atmosphere” ~K.M.
“I enjoy going to the Y and have met a lot of nice people.” ~J.G.
Feedback from our members is very important to us. The Y is continually improving its facilities based on the wants and needs of our members and communities. As we prepare for the New Year and all the exciting things to come, we want to reflect on the impact the Y has made on our members this past year. We gave members the opportunity to provide commentary on their Y experience. This is what they had to say:
Love that all are equal when we walk in the door. No matter age, race or creed, those of us wanting to improve our health, work out at whatever level we can. And the Y strives to meet the needs of the community!! ~B.D.
I got to the Y 3 to 4 times a week as does my husband. We play pickleball 3 times each week and I take two classes. In the summer we have the pool of which we enjoy a lot. It is a good place to meet friends and to get some exercise. ~J.S.
I like the variety of exercise facilities, equipment, and classes available to the membership. I also enjoy the opportunities for available for socialization, and the pleasant relationships I have developed with staff and other members. ~H.W.
The inclusiveness, the friendliness, the effort made by members and staff to engage one another in conversation and experiences, the mixture of very young and very old, the children, the interesting programs, and the modern, fun, and spotlessly clean facilities. ~E.H.
“By receiving the scholarship from the YMCA, I am able to go to work and know that my daughter is well taken care of. I have been using the Y since 2004 and highly recommend the daycare program to everyone I know. The YMCA helped prepare my son for kindergarten and is now helping my daughter. The YMCA staff are all very loving, caring individuals. They treat our children as their own, and you can see the love in their eyes and the relationships they have built with our children. If it wasn’t for the scholarship programs, I would not be able to afford good daycare and be able to leave my kids and know that they are safe.
– YMCA Scholarship Recipient
Due to the generosity of our donors, the Y is able to give financial assistance to families in need.
“At the Y we are caring.”
It is their first day of summer camp, and five-year-old twins Axel and Fritz are ready to meet new friends and have a great time at the Y. Enthusiastic camp counselors greet them as they arrive. Within a few minutes, the boys are playing games with fellow campers. At the sound of a whistle, the campers line up by groups to prepare for the Camp Opening. A camp counselor helps Axel and Fritz find and join their groups. The first day of summer camp is off to an amazing start.
After an energizing Camp Opening full of fun camp songs, the boys’ group sets off for their day of adventures. During a healthy eating activity fellow campers, Jocelyn took it upon herself to sit with the boys and translate the activity instructions. At no point during camp did the fact that Axel and Fritz only spoke Spanish hold them back from participating and having a great time. When Jocelyn was asked why she helped the boys, she commented, “At the Y we are caring. So I helped them play the game.”
The Y’s core values of Caring, Honesty, Respect, and Responsibility are instilled in our programs to help develop full potential in a positive environment. Jocelyn’s act of kindness demonstrates the core values in action.
Sample fitness classes, face painting, food trucks, music, and the excitement of our members were the icing on the cake to an amazing Grand Opening for the Mathews Family YMCA. Following the ceremonial ribbon cutting, community leaders and people from all across the county had a chance to explore their new Y. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of our volunteers, visitors were given tours of the new facility to see all the innovative building features and programs that the Y offers. We were honored to see the satisfaction that was given from the new and wheelchair accessible equipment, and a few of our staff joined in the excitement of the pickleball games that flooded the fitnasium.
To continue to make the Y a home for everyone, we will continue to wave joining fees, and members will be able to earn a free month for every person they invite who joins the Y.
The Mathews County Board of Supervisors took a tour of the new Mathews Family YMCA, getting a first-hand look not only at the colorful walls and bright, open spaces, but also at the safety upgrades the county paid for with grants and county funds.
The facility, on Cricket Hill Road at Hudgins, is nearing completion with a grand opening celebration scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 25.