With a grant from the Stark Community Foundation, Mercy Mission Outreach and the Stark County District Library Madge Youtz Branch piloted a free summer camp this year called Healthy 4 Life for kids in northeast Canton. Held each Thursday from 11:30 am to 1 pm for four consecutive weeks, the camp offered fun, interactive lessons focused on nutrition, healthy personal habits, dental care, exercise and more. Participants also received a healthy lunch at no cost.
According to Tracia Wellman, a licensed social worker and mission outreach coordinator, the goal for this first program was to serve 25 elementary-aged children. By its conclusion, Healthy 4 Life reached 30, including several mothers and children as young as age two.
She says, "Children who live near the Madge Youtz Branch don't have a lot of options for summer activities. There aren't any conveniently located parks or community centers. So, many spend time at the library, making the location ideal for this outreach. It was a great partnership, an excellent experience for everyone involved and a perfect match for Mercy's mission."
Each week, a guest speaker from Mercy led lessons and wellness activities, such as games, an obstacle course and a how-to on tomato planting. Speakers included Rachel Ondrejko, fitness specialist with Mercy Health & Fitness; Julie Finney, registered dietitian and manager of Mercy Clinical Nutrition; Misty Camp, RN; and Dr. Darr, DDS, with Mercy Dental Services. Participants were also given age-appropriate books, as well as pedometers, jump ropes, toothbrushes and other items designed to encourage healthy habits.
Tracia notes that leaders learned as much as the children did from this experience.
"Since this was our first Healthy 4 Life camp, we were trying to determine best practices for future camps," she says. "We hope to offer Healthy 4 Life again in 2015 and make it even better."
See more camp photos on Facebook!