At Wissahickon Boys & Girls Club Healthy Habits are a Slam Dunk!
For over 125 years, the Wissahickon Boys & Girls Club has been providing Philadelphia’s youth with a safe space to be healthy. As one of the 10 original clubs that was incorporated into the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the Wissahickon Club is a trailblazer when it comes to promoting a healthy lifestyle for our nation’s youth.
Today, Wissahickon Boys & Girls Club is still leading the way for childhood health. The task, however, is becoming increasingly urgent in a country where almost 1 in 3 kids are overweight or obese. That’s why Wissahickon Club partnered with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, which helps out-of-school time programs across the nation become healthier environments through the Healthy Out-of-School Time Initiative.
With the shared goal of promoting childhood health, “the Alliance and Boys & Girls Clubs are natural partners,” says Libby Lescalleet, Philadelphia Boys & Girls Club Executive Program Officer, and recipient of the Healthier Generation Hero Award on behalf of the Wissahickon Club at last year’s Leader’s Summit. Since partnering in 2013 with the Alliance, Wissahickon Boys & Girls Club has increased their commitment to making health and wellness a priority, expanded their programs, and got more kids and staff excited about being active and eating healthy.
On an average day, 120 kids of all ages come through the Club’s doors. With kids spilling out of every room and bustling through the halls, the place buzzes with energy. The Club puts that energy to good use by encouraging physical fitness through their BOKS Program, a Reebok initiative that encourages kids to be active through non-competitive fitness, Triple Play, a dynamic wellness program sponsored by The Coca-Cola Company and the Anthem Foundation, as well as various sports leagues, and dance programs.
The Wissahickon Boys & Girls Club is doing more than giving kids a place to play; for some youth, it’s become a lifesaver. Quadair, age 17, is one Wissahickon Club, youth who has recently undergone a health transformation. When Quadire’s doctor told him he would have to stop playing basketball due to a heart problem, he was devastated, but not defeated. Quadair says the Club motivated him to eat right, gave him exercise tips, and educated him about foods that “look like they’re good for you but are not.”
Now, Quadair has lost weight and is now back to playing the sport he loves. Quadair is now a healthy role model for his peers; he spends every day after school helping younger kids with homework, playing basketball and he was nominated for the Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year award last year.
“Kids get bored doing repetitive things” says Letitia Curry, the Club’s Athletic Supervisor, so shaking it up is key. Since ramping up the physical fitness activities at Wissahickon Club, staff and parents have noticed how the kids are not only more excited to be physically active, but are also better able to concentrate and do their homework afterwards. Kids are also noticing the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. “I feel great, I run faster, I jump higher, I play better” remarks Elijah, age 18.
“For me, it’s just a matter of seeing a problem [like childhood obesity] and wanting to correct it. I see the Boys & Girls Clubs and the Alliance as a platform to do so” says Wissahickon Club Unit Director Daniel Kelchner.
“Everybody has an obligation to make sure that our children are as healthy as they possibly can be” Lescalleet added. After all, she continued, “Kids are just kids, and they need people that are going to care about them and guide them to make good decisions.