Event promotes healthy choices

January 22, 2012

By ASHLEY JACKSON - Bulletin Staff Writer

Local students learned about healthy eating habits and healthy lifestyles Thursday as part of Virginia Healthy Youth Day.

At the YMCA’s afterschool site at Drewry Mason Elementary, members of CHILL, a youth task force made up of high school students from Martinsville and Henry County, spoke to more than 50 students about healthy choices and the negative effects of tobacco products.

In one exercise, students drew cards out of a bag on which habits such as “smoking a cigarette” or “listening” were written. They then had to decide whether the habits were healthy or unhealthy choices.

As the children learned about the harmful effects of smoking, CHILL members gave each one a marshmallow and a raisin.

After the students finished examining the textures of each, CHILL/HEY coordinator Katie Connelly told them that a marshmallow is what a nonsmoker’s lungs feel like — “healthy, soft and squishy” — but a smoker’s lungs are “hard, dried up and wrinkled,” like a raisin.

Connelly told the students that if someone asks them to smoke, they should think of what they want their lungs to look like.

CHILL members also had the students analyze how they felt while running in place, then compare that feeling with how they felt running in place with single straws in their mouths while holding their noses. The latter was to illustrate how smokers feel when they run.

After the lesson, the children went to the school gym for 45 minutes of physical activity.

They did various activities, such as yoga, jumping rope, scooter relays, climbing a rock wall, hula-hooping, stretching, and dancing along with the interactive video game Just Dance for Kids.

Bryson Patterson, a student who is in the YMCA afterschool program, enjoyed doing yoga because “it really gets you stretched out and relaxed,” he said, adding that his favorite yoga position is the archery pose.

Devin Page, another student in the program, admitted that he doesn’t always practice a healthy lifestyle. “I do sometimes, but not always,” he said.

But with the Healthy Youth Day, Devin realized that practicing a healthy lifestyle “can change your life drastically” and that the more you exercise, the more athletic and flexible you can be, he said.

Events were held at all five of the YMCA’s afterschool sites — Axton Elementary, Mt. Olivet Elementary, Martinsville YMCA, Collinsville YMCA and Drewry Mason Elementary — which together serve more than 400 children, Forestier said, adding that the 36 children at the YMCA’s Early Learning Center also participated in the events, according to YMCA Assistant Director Becky Forestier.

At the YMCA sites, students made fruit and vegetable kabobs, she said.

All of the four sites of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Blue Ridge participated in Healthy Youth Day as well. The sites are Sanville Elementary, Albert Harris Elementary, Patrick Henry Elementary and the Teen Center, according to Kayla Craddock, community health educator with the Martinsville Henry County Coalition for Health and Wellness.

At the Boys and Girls Club sites, the students participated in various physical activities and for snacks, they had yogurt, graham crackers and bananas, she added.

Grants from the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth to the YMCA and the Martinsville Henry County Coalition for Health and Wellness helped provide snacks and water bottles for the children at the sites.

More than 5,000 children celebrated Healthy Youth Day at more than 20 events across Virginia, according to Forestier.


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