When community needs are put first, unique partnerships will form. This is why the YMCA of Greater Houston partnered with the Texas Children’s Hospital (TCH) to create Kamp K’aana, a two-week program for kids ages 10 to 14 and above a healthy weight.
To be eligible for camp, kids must be in or above the 95th percentile of body mass index for their gender and age, and cleared for moderate to vigorous physical activity. As a result, camp has helped the Y develop relationships within the medical community. “The Y has developed strong relationships with local providers and health systems for medical providers to refer patients to summer camp, and to support the child and family after camp,” explained Thy Ho-Pham, the branch’s association community health manager.
Since beginning in Summer 2013 with just 14 campers, the program has grown to at least 100 participants in the last two years, and has even expanded to the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas.
“It’s an interesting program but also a model because we do a lot of family programming at a local level,” said Ho-Pham. “It’s a targeted approach toward childhood obesity in terms of weight management, so the camp is a catalyst for kids and families to jumpstart their health during the summer.”
At Kamp K’aana, campers learn beneficial nutrition values by being introduced to a daily 1,800-calorie meal plan designed by TCH dietitians. These meals place an emphasis on high fiber and whole grains rather than sugar and fat.
In addition to learning nutrition values, campers are also offered daily sessions with a wellness coach where they discuss appropriate portion sizes, smart food choices and self-esteem.
Also included in the evidence-based program is physical activity. Some activities include a ropes course, archery and water sports, sprinkled in with normal camp traditions.
While campers typically lose between five and 10 pounds by the end of camp, the importance is not on numbers, but rather on equipping others with the tools and knowledge to continue practicing weight management and healthy choices after the experience.
One of the ways to ensure campers want to continue practicing healthy choices is creating an experience that increases self-confidence and builds self-esteem. “The best approach to supporting families who have children struggling with their weight is to ensure a judgement-free environment,” said Ho-Pham.
The environment doesn’t only benefit the campers and families — it benefits the staff as well. “Kamp K’aana is a special time of year for me where I get to leave the bustling city of Houston and work at our beautiful YMCA Camp Cullen,” said Ho-Pham. “Having the great outdoors as an office for two weeks also allows me to reset for the remainder of my calendar year.”
The perk of offering a specialized camp is benefiting those community members in need. Ho-Pham described an added perk is the difference your program and staff make throughout your community. “Kamp K’aana is a great addition to any community as it engages medical providers, care givers and families towards a goal of healthy living,” she said.