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Olympic Games cap off Healthy Choices for Kids camp

Posted on Tuesday, August 07, 2012 · Volume: XLV · Issue: 16

Leo Alaniz, 11, (dribbling the ball) wanted to go for the gold in basketball at the Healthy Choices for Kids Olympic Games.
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Leo Alaniz, 11, (dribbling the ball) wanted to go for the gold in basketball at the Healthy Choices for Kids Olympic Games. clear graphic

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By Rosanne Fohn

While people all over the world are glued to their televisions or computers watching top athletes vie for the gold in the 2012 Olympics, 120 youngsters ages 6 to 18 have been training for their very own Olympic Games on San Antonio’s West Side.

Their time to shine was Friday, Aug. 3, at the culminating activities of a summer camp at Good Samaritan Community Services called Healthy Choices for Kids. Healthy Choices is a curriculum taught by nursing students from the UT Health Science Center San Antonio.

The Olympic Games included soccer, relay races, basketball, 50-yard dash, long jump, jump rope, tug-of-war, scooter races, shot put, push-up one-arm challenge and hula hoop. The children were recognized at the conclusion of the games with medals, just like in the real Olympics.

“We have been here at Good Samaritan for the last eight weeks.” said Adelita Cantu, Ph.D., RN, assistant professor of family and community health systems in the School of Nursing. “Today we are involved in the Olympics where the kids are participating in all the different events. But we have also been talking to them all summer about making healthy choices when it comes to snacks, food labels, exercise, making goals for themselves and the importance of community service.”

Goal: Overall good health
Dr. Cantu created the Healthy Choices for Kids program in 2008 with Ruth Berggren, M.D., director of the university’s Center for Medical Humanities & Ethics in the School of Medicine. “This program brings our nursing students into the community where they become role models for the children and learn to teach healthy behaviors to the kids, who then share what they learn with their families,” Dr. Cantu said.

The nursing students planned the eight-week curriculum, which included field trips, physical training and educational activities that promoted choosing healthy foods, portion control, healthy relationships, team building and goal setting.

(Left to right) Gisselle Hernandez won the silver medal, Evelyn Acosta got the gold and Angelina Uriegas received the bronze in the 12-year-old girls jump rope competition.
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(Left to right) Gisselle Hernandez won the silver medal, Evelyn Acosta got the gold and Angelina Uriegas received the bronze in the 12-year-old girls jump rope competition.clear graphic


Going for the gold
The nursing students introduced the idea of the Olympic Games at the beginning of the summer and let the children choose the type of activities for the games and which ones they would like to do. And just like in the Olympics, they took time each day to train — even building up their strength by running with 5- and 10-pound bags of potatoes, which was also used to illustrate how much easier it is to move when you lose that much weight, Dr. Cantu said.

“The kids are really enjoying the physical activities,” said Sean “Doc” Moore, a nursing student who directed Healthy Choices activities at Good Samaritan. “It’s been pretty hot out here these days – 101, 102 degrees – but they still want to be out here doing this.”

Leo Alaniz, 11, took a break to discuss his favorite activity, basketball. “I enjoyed giving my best out there,” he said. “My mom says that it’s not all about winning, but playing the game, But I want to win this gold medal. I’m good at a lot of sports and I’ve been blessed with some God-given abilities. I want to help win the gold out here today.”

Fifth-grader José Salinas, 11, who received an award as the best overall boy camper, added, “I liked that we got to do a lot of activities and that it helps us lose weight and be healthy. I lost some weight — 3 pounds.” He received a $50 gift certificate for athletic shoes as his prize. Norelly Piliado, the best girl camper, won the same prize.

Introducing the children to different ways to be active could lead to a lifelong interest in being fit. Karla Reyna, also 11, said that she loved playing basketball most and plans to try out for her middle school team. She also enjoyed learning about healthy snacks, including slushies. “They have different proteins and fruit in it. I liked the strawberry ones,” she said.

Venturing out into the community
The children also went on several field trips. At the Witte Museum’s H-E-B Body Adventure exhibit they learned about the different muscle groups and how they can be strengthened. At a community garden, they discovered that gardening is a healthy type of exercise, not to mention the nutritious vegetables that can be grown. The children also visited a skating rink. ”A lot of the kids were fearful of falling down, but our nursing students encouraged them to try it,” Dr. Cantu said. “This helped them build confidence in trying something new and they learned that there are lots of fun ways to exercise.” Children ages 14 to 16 also participated in community service by painting part of a Habitat for Humanity house to learn about giving back.

Nursing student Robyn Cash coordinated the Olympic Games, delegating tasks to Good Samaritan camp counselors, the 11 other Health Science Center nursing students, two high school interns and Dr. Cantu and her husband, John, who has participated in track and field events, marathons and triathlons throughout his life and was keeping statistics to for the awards.

“This was a team effort,” said Dr. Cantu. “We couldn’t have put this camp or the Olympics on without the help of our community partner, Good Samaritan, or the hard work of all the nursing students who are a great reflection on our School of Nursing.”

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