WILKES-BARRE — More than 100 children filled the YMCA Saturday for an afternoon of fun and fitness.
The children came out for the 25th annual Healthy Kids Day. The event is part of the YMCA’s national initiative to improve the health and well-being of children and their families.
“What we realize is that when school ends, there’s a major decline in activity with children,” said YMCA Wellness Director Lauranel Banks. “We’re hoping to bridge the gap and offer activities that will make for well-rounded children.”
The many activities included a dance, healthy cooking demonstrations, storytelling, swim-safety instruction, boxing, games and face painting.
A gymnasium featured an “Imagination Playground,” which consisted of life-sized foam Lego blocks, an interactive Sports Wall, which challenged players to hit a number of light-up targets with a ball — or their hands and feet — and a large bubble-wrap play area.
“We’ve found that playing in the bubble wrap helps children on the Autism spectrum,” Banks said.
Nearly a dozen organizations also offered free educational and fitness demonstrations and activities, such as rope climbing and pull-up challenges offered by the U.S. Marine Corps and a smoke-house demonstration by the Wilkes-Barre Fire Department.
Wilkes University pharmacy and nursing students were on hand to teach the children about the dangers of household poisons and also about health and nutrition. The children also got to practice “medicine” at a teddy bear clinic as they gave teddy bears shots and used a stethoscope.
Four-year-old Khalese Taylor, of Wilkes-Barre, learned that consuming too much sugar can lead to obesity. She struggled to lift a five-pound rubbery block that was supposed to simulate fat over her head. She then tried doing arm circles wearing five-pound arm weights.
“I learned that you shouldn’t drink too much sugar, or you’ll get fat,” she said.
During the event, families had the chance to win a number of prizes offered by the YMCA, such as a one-year, full-family membership and a free week of day camp.
Banks also pointed out that the event wouldn’t have been possible without the help of a number of Wilkes and Wyoming Seminary student volunteers, as well as major sponsors Highmark and ProCare Physical Therapy.