YMCA event aims for healthier kids

April 04, 2005|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Eggs and peach Jell-O demonstrated the importance of wearing a bicycle helmet Sunday to many of the more than 500 children and adults who attended the Chambersburg YMCA's Healthy Kids Day.

Reaching into a Styrofoam cooler, Evan Misal squeezed a brain-shaped gelatinous mass inside.

"Can I eat it?" Misal, 7, of Chambersburg, asked, feeling the ersatz cerebral cortex.

"It draws them in," Brittany May of Girl Scouts Cadet Troop 899 said of the Jell-O brain. Using a foam cup and an egg, she also showed Evan and his brother Jake, 4, how proper cushioning could protect its shell, or their skulls, from harm.

A few feet away, the Franklin County Safe Kids Coalition, one of about 18 human service organizations at the event, was custom-fitting and giving away dozens of bicycle helmets.


Jackie Umberger of the coalition said it purchased about 270 helmets with a state grant and gave away about 100 Saturday at a similar event in Waynesboro, Pa.

"We expect to give the rest out today," Umberger said.

Swim instructors in the YMCA's pools were giving children some basic lifesaving and boating safety advice.

"I always tell them, 'Throw before you go,'" instructor LaBreeska Sites said, meaning a child should throw something that floats to another swimmer in distress before going to find adult help.

Another method is to reach out to the person with a pole or stick, but Erick Espinoza of Chambersburg learned that does not work if the swimmer is bigger than the person trying to save them.

"They might pull you in and you might drown, too," he said.

The YMCA sponsored its first Healthy Kids Day in 2000, drawing about 75 people, said Michele Sheppard, the assistant executive director. The number rose to about 1,000 by 2003. The event was not held in 2004 when the building was being renovated, she said.

"It's been embraced by a lot of agencies that serve children and families," Sheppard said. Perhaps the biggest health problem facing children today is the convenience of modern life, she said.

"Twenty-five percent of the nation's children are clinically obese" and more are clinically overweight, Sheppard said. Sedentary lifestyles combined with convenience and fast foods threaten their long-term health, she said.

Sheppard said the Centers for Disease Control warns that "this generation of children will actually live less years because of their lifestyles and eating habits."

There were plenty of healthy snacks and good advice at the event.

The Franklin County Medical Alliance gave a class to young children about the importance of washing hands and not sneezing or coughing into their hands.

"You should wash your hands when you go to the bathroom and wash them before lunch," Taylor Wiser, 7, of Shippensburg, Pa., said.

Gabrielle Ludwick of the alliance told them a sneeze can send out germs at the speed of a NASCAR racer.

"The germs are flying around like little Jeff Gordons," she told them.

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