Children build friendships, exercise, healthy diets & fun at Fit For Life!
“Fit for Life” is a kid’s summer program that developed in 1997, through grant funding, with a mission to reach out to local kids under 18. This program, originally positioned in Wellsboro, Mansfield, and Westfield, operates as a collaborative effort between the Tioga County Partnership for Community Health and the Northern Tioga County School District Summer Feeding Program to provide kids a healthy lunch, and physical activity, with games, crafts, and educational workshops. It also teaches kids about nutrition, exposing them to healthy foods, like fruits and vegetables that may be foreign to them. Over the years, the program has evolved to serve in other locations, which are still current, Westfield, Elkland, and Knoxville.
This year, “Fit for Life” was privileged to welcome Heather McCarthy, nutrition educator, from Penn State as their nutrition advocate, twice a week. Heather introduced the kids to various foods, like Brussels sprouts, Rutabaga, Broccoli, fruit salads, and even V-8. The kids had a ball trying some new and old foods, while learning how each of these foods fit into the food pyramid, and were important for a healthy lifestyle. Many of the kids expressed interest in continuing to eat these foods at home.
The kids also enjoy themed weeks, like Space and Olympic week, depending on their site location. The themes give the kids a chance to learn about different topics and hone in on specific interests, creating crafts and playing games related to the theme. The kids really love showing off their creative work, and soak up the attention and praise from the counseling staff during the games. Both the summer feeding program and counseling staff value spending time with the kids. It is their way of giving back to the community.
Also part of the “Fit for Life” program is “Project Backpack”, where the counseling staff ask the kids what kind of backpack they would like to have during the school year. The staff then hand-pick backpacks for the youth before going back to school. They fill the bags with needed school supplies, and write individual encouraging notes for each youth to put in the backpacks. Many of the kids are so excited to receive their backpacks, notes, and school supplies, plus it relieves the parents from the financial burden of buying school supplies. A double win!
Not only that, but a few of the counseling staff have experienced “Fit for Life” as kids themselves, and now work as counselors with the kids. More specifically, two of the counseling staff housed at the Knoxville Community Center, Katie Straniere, and Allie Rudy, grew up in the “Fit for Life” program together. They appreciated the relationships they fostered with their counseling staff, and expressed gratefulness in the time they spent in the program. They felt strongly enough about the program, that they also wanted to give back, by planning, coordinating, and giving their time to kids in the summer program, just like their counselors did for them. What a wonderful give back!
Sadly, the program ends this week, as it spanned from June to the middle of August. Both Katie and Allie, two of the staff counselors, expressed sadness that it is the end, but reminisced on the valuable time they had with the youth this year. Now that’s success!
Idea/Concept: Dr. Nicolle Mayo
Videography: Andrew Moore
Video Editing: Andrew Moore
Writing: Dr. Nicolle Mayo
Correspondent: Dr. Nicolle Mayo
Produced by Vogt Media
Funded by UPMC Susquehanna, Dunham’s Department Store