St. Mary's Medical Center | Huntington, WV | (304) 526-1234

Huntington YMCA launches community effort to fight child obesity

George Smailes
Executive Director, Huntington YMCA

Huntington, WV ̶ The Huntington YMCA announced today that it has teamed up with Cabell Huntington Hospital, St. Mary’s Medical Center, the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine and Cabell County Schools for a new initiative called Kids in Motion, a fun and innovative exercise and nutrition program designed to improve the health of Tri-State area children.

At the heart of Kids in Motion is Kid Fit, a 12-week program at the Phil Cline Family YMCA to get kids ages 5-14 moving and having fun, while also learning about fitness and nutrition. Weight, body mass index, body fat percentage and blood pressure will be tracked throughout the program to measure progress and to customize the program to fit each child.

“It’s important to take a proactive approach when combating the issue of childhood obesity,” George Smailes, executive director of the Huntington YMCA, said. “Therefore, we are truly grateful to Cabell Huntington Hospital, St. Mary’s Medical Center and our other community partners for joining forces on this important endeavor.”

During Kid Fit, children will utilize exergaming equipment, which combines video games and exercise.Some of the activities include iDance, which is similar to the popular Dance Dance Revolution game, and the T-wall, where players try to quickly touch surfaces as they light up in various sequences. For each activity, participants will try to compete with each other, as well as their previous scores, in order to earn points for prizes.

“It has to be interesting and fun for kids to stay involved,” Smailes said. “The kids get so caught up in these games that they don’t even realize the impact it’s having on their health. That’s what we want—for them to be active without even thinking about exercise.”

Kids in Motion is not just about fun and games, however. Participants and their parents or guardians will also receive important nutrition education through several activities, including grocery store tours and classes at Huntington’s Kitchen.

Another major component of the program will provide opportunities for the children participating to improve their self-esteem.

“This program focuses on a child’s body, mind and spirit,” said Dan O’Hanlon, president of the YMCA board. “There is no other program in the state that accomplishes all of that, so we are extremely proud to be able to offer this to the kids in our area.”

Participants will be referred to the program by nurses and physical education teachers in Cabell County Schools, as well as area physicians and parents. There is an introductory cost of $60 for the 12-week session, which includes a 12-month youth membership to the Phil Cline Family Y. Kids in Motion is currently working to provide scholarship opportunities to as many youth as possible.

“We are excited about the benefits that Kids in Motion will provide our students,” said Bill Smith, superintendent of Cabell County Schools. “We truly appreciate the community coming together for this important work and we look forward to sharing this wonderful opportunity with our students.”

As part of the community partnership, the Kids in Motion program will have a board made up of several professionals from the area, including James R. Bailes, Jr., MD, pediatrician at Cabell Huntington Hospital; Erick Willis, MD, pediatrician at St. Mary’s Medical Center; David Sheils, president of the St. Mary’s Medical Center Foundation; Doug Sheils, director of Strategic Marketing at Cabell Huntington Hospital; Jennifer Plymale, director of the Robert C. Byrd Center for Rural Health and associate dean for admissions at the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine and Dr. Joseph I. Shapiro, dean of the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.

Several area businesses have also offered their support and services to the new initiative, including Dutch Miller Chevrolet and FoodFair.Kids in Motion is also a funded partner of the United Way of the River Cities.

O’Hanlon said the program is still looking for people who would like to get involved.

“This project is a true community collaboration between organizations that are looking to improve the health and well-being of Tri-State children,” O’Hanlon said. “This is not about who receives credit. This is about doing what’s important for the future of our kids.”

Anyone wanting to become a part of Kids in Motion can contact the program director, Jamie Berry, at (304) 697-7113 or via email at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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