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Fit Kids 4 Christ offers 'cool stuff' to do

March 08, 2005|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

BOONSBORO - For Austin Fowler, going to the Spiritual Life Center at Benevola United Methodist Church after school is a treat.

"I get to play cool stuff and then we eat," the 7-year-old said.

The "cool stuff" Austin talked about is part of Fit Kids 4 Christ, a monthly exercise and recreation program at the church that is woven in a subtle religious framework.

Held the second Thursday of the month from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., the event recently attracted more than two dozen elementary-age children who exploded through the doors of the full-sized gymnasium at the recently expanded church on Benevola Church Road.

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"There is a good spirit here today," said Pastor Helen Steiner Smith, who came to help out along with several of the parents. "It's a very positive program."

Fit Kids 4 Christ was launched by Benevola church member Lisa Ridenour in November 2003. "It has been a great idea," Smith said.

A teacher in nearby Middletown, Md., Ridenour said 26 children is possibly a record attendance and she was glad to see it.

"For the first half hour, we let them get some of that energy out," Ridenour said, barely audible above the din of the two dozen youngsters running and yelling.

After that, Ridenour pulled out her whistle and corralled the children into tight lines for warm-up yoga exercises. Even during those exercises, she spiced up things with whimsy, adding animal noises to some of the positions.

Occasional outbursts were quickly quelled when Ridenour and some of the older children raised hands with two fingers in the air, signaling that it was time to respect who is talking.

Ridenour said respecting others is a major theme of all the activities at Fit Kids 4 Christ, whether it be while playing games, doing exercises or having a snack.

With a rhythmic tape recording playing in the background, Ridenour and her helpers organized the children into relay teams and had them run, skip, gallop or crab walk to the far end of the gym and back.

"Winning isn't the most important thing," Ridenour reminded the children. "It's more important to play hard and fair and to do your best."

The biggest cheers went up when the children followed directions and when they cheered on their own team members. "That's good sportsmanship and that's what counts," Ridenour said.

Herb Cassidy brought his 4-year-old daughter, Julie, for the first time recently after hearing about it from his sister-in-law, who just happens to be Lisa Ridenour. He said he was glad he came.

"I'm enjoying it, too," Cassidy said as the children capped off their play period with a rousing round of limbo.

Ridenour said she tells the children to remember to smile and to have fun.

"We also learn to treat others like we want to be treated," she said.

The next session will be Thursday, March 10, at 3:30 p.m.

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