Lee-Ann and Brad Adams knew their three children were learning about fitness and good nutrition in their after-school program. What they didn’t expect was that the whole family would benefit.
Two days a week, Erik, Jessica and Emily would make the short walk from their school to the community hall that hosted their local Cool Moves program, operated by the Okanagan Boys and Girls Clubs in their small town of Oyama, BC. There they joined their friends for three hours of active fun, including running, soccer and baseball, as well as crafts and other activities. Soon after the Adams kids began attending the program, their mom noticed a dramatic change in the family’s eating habits. “The program is really good at getting the kids to understand the importance of healthy snacks,” Lee-Ann says. “All three started requesting them more and more, so I just stopped buying the puddings and chocolate-covered granola bars altogether. We definitely have way more fruit around the house than ever before.”
Lee-Ann says the family also became more conscious of their activity levels. Cool Moves leaders encourage the kids to keep a journal of their daily physical activities, whether it’s playing organized sports or taking a bike ride with a friend. Children who complete the journal are entered in a draw for a prize. “Jessica really keyed into the reward aspect,” Lee-Ann says of her eight-year-old daughter. “It gave her a sense of accomplishment.” Jessica in turn helped motivate the rest of the family to take more walks together.
For seven-year-old Emily, the best thing about Cool Moves was the opportunity to move outside her comfort zone. “Emily is very shy and reserved,” Lee-Ann says. “But she started to run the laps and do the other things Cool Moves kids were doing. It really brought out things in Emily that we hadn’t seen before.”
Erik, too, had a chance to explore new roles. The program leader relied on him and other grade five students to buddy up with the younger ones walking to the sports field.
Since 2005, Cool Moves has given kids aged eight to 12 an opportunity to stay active and learn about healthier food choices. The after-school program is supported by Kraft Canada and run by Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada, which is active in 700 communities across the country, serving some 200,000 young people. Lee-Ann stresses that programs like this are crucial in small towns. “In a community like ours, we just don’t have the same opportunities that people in the big city do. So we rely on organizations like the Boys and Girls Clubs to reach out to our kids.”