Camp for overweight kids instills good habits
Mayo Clinic Health System partners with YMCA to educate 10-14 year olds
Kids being kids. That's what summer camp is all about. But, the kids who attend Camp Wabi near Eau Claire, Wisc., also learn about the benefits of being healthy kids.
An eye-opening experience
The camp "made me open my eyes to see how unhealthy I was. I've learned that there are people that want to help me and give me encouragement. I believe you have given me some peace and comfort here," says one camper.
The 12-day summer camp was created for overweight kids by YMCA Camp Manitou and Mayo Clinic Health System. In a supportive summer camp environment, children, ages 10 to 14, learn how to eat healthier and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Time to learn and play
An hour of each day is set aside for healthy lifestyle coaching by Mayo Clinic Health System physicians as well as specialists in nutrition, behavior therapy, psychology, pediatric medicine and exercise physiology.
"I learned healthy eating habits and to put my food into portions," says one camper who enjoyed the healthy meals served each day.
Kids participate in daily summer camp activities like canoeing, fishing, kayaking and organized games, and also choose from two specialty hobbies each day, such as arts and crafts, archery, basketball, outdoor cooking, dance, arts and crafts, ultimate Frisbee and more.
Reaching the whole family
In an interview with the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, John Plewa, M.D., a Mayo Clinic Health System pediatrician and medical director of Camp Wabi, acknowledged that some parents struggle with how to handle their child's weight problems.
"They don't want to fixate on body size and create more fuel for the fire, but if they just ignore it, it tends to get worse," he says. Ideally, Camp Wabi will be a "springboard to a healthy life to come," he adds.
Before the camp starts, parents learn how to help their camper live a healthier lifestyle at home. That parental involvement is essential, according to Dr. Plewa. After camp, parents receive materials to keep their kids on course. Camp staff members are available throughout the year to help, and parents and campers can track their progress at three, six and 12- month camp reunions.
One camper says, "I learned so much and am super excited to teach my family."
Another camper summarizes the whole experience as "literally life changing, and to be honest... a dream come true!"