On Saturday, Healthy Kids Day, the YMCA's national initiative to improve families health and well-being, was celebrated across the country and locally in Tampa's Curtis Hixon Park. That's where vendors from a range of local health organizations distributed information to families who in some cases might not be aware of services that are available for their children right now.
One information table offered young children teddy bears that they could take care of. The idea behind that is to establish comfort with kids who hopefully are more likely to want to go to a doctor's office and seek care that was produced by the members with the USF Pediatrics Department. "We’re trying to simulate what it’s like to go to a doctor’s office thru using teddy bears so kids get more comfortable to going to a doctor and establishing a routine," says Alyssa Kennedy, a third-year medical student at USF.
One vendor was Project Latino Style, a health promotional program for Latino families that have kids between 14-17 years old, that is run out of the USF College of Behavioral and Community Science program at USF.
"We have a one-day workshop at USF, where parents and kids can come together," explains Manny Mayor, who runs the program. Mayor said kids and teens are put into their own respective groups for the day, where they talk about the things that kids confront, such as drugs, alcohol, cultural traditions and issues related to sexual behavior. Mayor said parents and their kids then get together later in the day to talk with each other about those subjects.
A host of Hillsborough County government agencies were present, including groups representing the Children's Board, PTA, a breastfeeding task force and the county's Student Nutrition Service, which provides breakfast and lunch services to county public schools.
A representative from the department named Ben was handing out healthy snacks, such as "smart cookies"- cookies made out of whole grain and reduced sugar.
The woman responsible for coordinating the entire event is Mo Chiodini, Associate VP of wellness programs with the Tampa YMCA, who said it's absolutely wrong that 12-year-olds are now being diagnosed with diabetes.
She says the mantra at the Y is "5,2,1, almost none," which translated means advocating that kids have five servings of fruit and vegetables daily, two hours or less of inactive screen time in front of a computer or mobile device, one hour of physical activity and ideally "almost" no sugary beverages.
Healthy Kids Day takes place with just one week left in the Florida Legislature's regular spring session, where a proposal that limit liability for schools that open their playgrounds and facilities on a voluntarily basis to community groups and individuals during non-school hours awaits action in the Senate after passing the House. Among those groups endorsing the bill include the American Heart Association.
There were hundreds of people in Tampa's centrally located park on Saturday, mostly young parents with their young children. One Tampa woman named Meg told CL that she attends many events at Curtis Hixon on the weekends, but said Saturday's programming at the park wasn't really intended for her. That's because she says that her baby boy is not allowed to eat fast food or processed food. "All his food is organic, and we grow stuff," she said.