Building healthier communities starts with youth and families. To help teach kids and families the value of health and wellness, YMCAs across the countries are participating in — and putting their own spin on — the annual Healthy Kids Day event, hosted the weekend of Saturday, April 27.
“Healthy Kids Day, celebrated at over 1,500 Ys across the country by over one million participants, works to get more kids moving and learning, creating habits that they continue all summer long,” said Lalita Llerena, the senior communications director at the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA.
The annual event also encourages each community to invest in its youth, according to Jack Fucci, the president and CEO of West Suburban YMCA in Newton, Massachusetts. “Healthy Kids Day is an opportunity for the community to focus on what kids need to grow and achieve all summer long,” he said.
The West Suburban Y, which usually engages over 300 kids and families on Healthy Kids Day, will host a wide variety of events at its state-of-the-art New Balance Track and Field to foster healthy habits. In countless communities across the country, that engagement is critical for the health of families and development of youth during the summer.
“One in three U.S. children is obese — our community is no different — and when summertime hits, kids will be even more idle,” said Fucci. “Research shows that without access to out-of-school physical and learning activities, kids fall behind academically and gain weight twice as fast during summer than the school year.”
During its 2018 Healthy Kids Day event, the Tampa Metro Y played host to almost 2,000 guests. This year, they’re hoping to greet even more children and families, and help them develop healthier lifestyles.
“As spring turns to summer, Healthy Kids Day is a powerful reminder not to let children idle away their summer days,” said Llerena. “Instead, the Y wants families to focus on helping children imagine what they can accomplish over the summer.”
Healthy Kids Day does provide a boost to the culture of each individual branch, but the primary focus of the initiative is teaching positive lifestyle changes to combat summer learning loss.
“Summer learning loss negatively affects so many children in our community,” said Llerena. “Summers spent without stimulation and learning are one of the most significant, yet least acknowledged, causes of underachievement in our schools.”
In addition to improving their performance in school, these activities will help children develop healthy habits. Healthier habits will lead to better quality of life for kids and their families, and by extension, healthier communities.
That’s the purpose and mission of Healthy Kids Day. “A child’s development is never on vacation,” said Fucci. “When a child is healthy, happy and supported, they can achieve great things.”