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Doin' it for the kids

By: Jim Ratajczak, The Telegraph
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For a group of El Dorado Hills children, it’s going to be a different kind of summer vacation. Instead of afternoons spent sitting around playing Xbox, munching Fritos and downing a liter of Mountain Dew, Mercy Hospital of Folsom and Mercy Housing are making sure these tykes don’t lose their summer – or health – to video games and high fructose corn syrup. Thanks to the new “FIT Kids” summer program, a free six-week course held each Wednesday, local children won’t be spending their vacations totally vegging out. “What we did was partner with Mercy Hospital,” said Sarah Noe, resident service coordinator with Mercy Housing. “We’re always serving meals and I thought it would be perfect to partner with them to get the children to exercise.” The concept behind “FIT Kids” is simple enough – teach proper nutrition and healthy meal planning to the youth of White Rock Village while providing supervised exercise and games focused on strengthening, flexibility and teambuilding. Noe said Mercy hopes to bring the “FIT Kids” program to Folsom but were not sure when that would happen. But after six months of planning, organizers were glad to see their vision finally become a reality. “I know this community and I know the kids,” said Elaine Reynolds, community outreach specialist. “We just really wanted to bring a program here that would educate and keep kids active.” According to Reynolds, the need for a program like “FIT Kids” is higher than ever because of the growing epidemic of childhood obesity. “It’s one of our nation’s biggest healthcare issues,” she said. “And studies show body fat increases over summer.” A 2007 Community Needs Assessment Report showed that, in 2005, 30 percent of Sacramento County’s fifth, seventh and ninth graders were already overweight. “We’re targeting the age group where we can help build a healthy lifestyle,” said Reynolds. “It’s a bad thing if you bore kids with nutrition.” But based on the responses from the participating children, boredom was nowhere to be found. “I like when we’re inside learning stuff,” said 10-year-old Leesa Bingham. “I like to cook and I like the food to be healthy. I think everybody is learning something and I learning new things is interesting to me.” Bingham’s brother Ty, 9, echoed those remarks. “It’s good we’re learning about different food groups and junk food,” he said. “We’re learning it’s important to exercise to build muscle. It’s pretty fun.”