Rural FitKids programs creates healthy communities
REED CITY — Parents and children are taking part in the Rural FitKids 360 program offered by Spectrum Health Reed City Hospital and gaining knowledge to become healthier, happier individuals and family members.
"The project is a learning and exercise program combined," said dietitian Jesse Deroche, who helps instruct classes. "We set goals and the family goes home and works on those goals. They earn prizes each week for completing their task."
The goal of the program is to assist youth in making positive lifestyle changes through family-based education and intervention to achieve their healthiest potential. Instructors use games, challenges and information to help boost knowledge, communication, self esteem, confidence and physical activity.
"We try to bring the family together, teach healthy options and to incorporate physical activity in their daily lives," Deroche added. "We also provide healthy snacks, like fruits, vegetables and low fat dairy items."
Classes are held from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Tuesdays at G.T. Norman Elementary School in Reed City and are open to children ages 5 to 16 and their parents or support partners. Child participants should have a body mass index at the 85th percentile or higher and have a written referral from a health care provider. Grant money from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has funded the program since 2012.
Participant Bob Powers attends the class with his twin sons, Owen and Dylan, 9, and made the program a priority because obesity runs in his family.
"I thought it was important to moderate how much sugar we're eating and to be more active," Powers said. "I wanted to give them a good example."
He and his children are enjoying the program, noting they are finding fun in each activity and learning how to become healthier people.
"I like the variety of the program and that it teaches about the decisions you make in life," Powers added. "You plant the seed now and hopefully it'll last a lifetime."
For mother Joyce Dorn, the knowledge she has gained about certain foods and nutrition has been eye opening. She and her daughter, Kylie, 10, are seeing the value in healthy habits.
"The program has made us a lot more aware of what to look for on food labels," Dorn said. "The things we've learned are easy to understand and apply to our lives. It has helped us learn more about fitness and the recommended guidelines about food and sugar consumption."
According to Deroche, the 12-week program has made a positive, noticeable difference for all involved.
"The kids' confidence has definitely improved," she said. "In the beginning they wouldn't answer my questions, speak up or get into play time, but now they're really getting involved. We also have found that families that communicate together tend to make healthier decisions, so we want to open that communication and give them the tools to help them express what they're feeling."