Boys & Girls Club focuses on healthy bodies and minds
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Starting in mid-October, days spent at the Mary Brown Teen Center, part of the Boys & Girls Club of Northwest Colorado, have been infused with activities focused on the holistic health of the young body and mind.
Every day, each kid sets an intention, both academic and personal. On Mondays, they make smoothies. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, the kids head to Steamboat Tennis and Pickleball Center for private instruction.
The new Healthy Bodies/Healthy Minds program is sponsored by UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center and is aimed at helping “our youngest citizens develop wellness techniques to care equally for their mind and body for a lifetime. It will also teach youth how to engage in self-care and not look to self-medicate, thus preventing the use of substances.”
The Teen Center is open to youth ages 11 to 14, and Teen Director Meghan Barrett said her kids are without doubt experiencing more stress and anxiety as a result of the pandemic.
Staying physically active and learning healthy habits and coping mechanisms has been making a difference, she said.
They participate in yoga and other mindfulness exercises, which Barrett said makes an instant difference in their stress levels.
“It’s so huge during this time when they are worried and anxious,” she said.
Barrett said she does sees the additional challenges kids are facing manifest at times in behavior, and the new programming, and the Teen Center in general, have a positive impact in counteracting those stressors.
The group also spends time talking, whether about issues related directly to the pandemic or other trials they may be facing.
The kids miss normal socializing, she said, going on trips, celebrating birthdays and getting to do some of the normal middle school-aged rights of passages they are forced to forgo.
“It’s a transformational age,” Barrett said, when kids are figuring things out about themselves and who their friends are — and right now, they are missing some of that social experience and exposure. “It’s such a rollercoaster of emotions right now.”
Part of the program fosters a sense of belonging, and the kids get a special mug each morning and can decorate it with stickers earned for acts of kindness or other behavior that goes above and beyond, Barrett said.
The kids have embraced the daily intentions, she said, and it adds purpose to the day. Some of them are straightforward, like finishing a homework project. Others are more personal goals. One boy who was prone to arguing decided he was going to go the whole day without arguing with anyone.
“He stuck to it,” she said.
One of her favorite intentions has been when a kid set the goal of talking to everyone in the group, not just their friends.
While they check in on the intentions at the end of the day, they don’t get any reward for following through, she said. It’s all about having that personal sense of integrity and accomplishment.
The healthy snacks component of the program has them making salsa, hummus and almond butter in addition to the weekly smoothies. They are having fun learning new recipes, Barrett said, and discovering healthy options they can make for their families — and how that healthy food makes them feel good.
The program also includes a Marijuana Education Initiative, which provides education about the impacts of cannabis on the developing brain and develops skills for responding to stress and choosing healthier options.
Of the trips to the Tennis and Pickleball Center, which also helps to sponsor the program, “They love it,” Barrett said. “I’ve never seen them so engaged.” That goes for the less-athletic kids as well, she added.
They have also gone horseback riding, rock climbing and regularly go hiking.
With many having parents who work full time, and the kids not being in school every day, the Boys & Girls Club has stepped up to fill an important role, and Barrett emphasizes they have created a safe place. Like in school, they wear masks, socially distance and do a lot of sanitizing.
Typically, the hospital contributes to the club’s Be Great Bash, the primary annual fundraiser. With everything shifted to virtual, the contribution this year went instead to the Healthy Bodies/Healthy Minds program, said YVMC president Soniya Fidler.
“UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center works every day to improve lives, and that starts with the youth in our communities. Just like adults, it’s important for children to know how to practice self-care and have the skills to care for their bodies and minds instead of engaging with harmful substances. We’re grateful for organizations like Boys & Girls Club that provide a safe, positive place for kids.”
To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.
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