Despite the steady rain, the 2017 Healthy Kids Day kicked off at 10 am on Saturday, May 6, this year featuring a Kentucky Derby theme, as the event fell on Derby Day.
The national YMCA began Healthy Kids Day in April 1992, an event free and open to the public. As the nation’s largest health day for kids and families, it became an annual event, designed to emphasize the importance of play in keeping kids healthy and happy and enhancing their problem-solving abilities, creativity, and motor and social skills.
The YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard held the first Healthy Kids Day in 2011. “This is our seventh year.” Jessica Daniels, director of marketing and public relations, said, and “each year it gets bigger and better.”
Activities this year included tie-dying, face painting, and hat decorating. Children from all over the Island learned about plants, healthy eating, and so much more. Healthy Kids Day is designed to inspire families to develop healthy routines at home and a powerful reminder not to let children idle away their summer days. Nina Lombardi, director of operations, said, “four to five hundred people from the community come each year for this free event.”
The weather posed challenges, but the YMCA team running the event found creative ways to move some of the outdoor activities inside. Where the outside was gray and dreary, the inside was bright and joyous. Participants of all ages were filled with energy and excitement throughout the two-hour event.
Will Conway, a farm-to-school coordinator for Island Grown Schools, was teaching participants how to make seed-planting pots out of newspaper. He guided them through the steps of taking a flat sheet of paper and forming it into a three-dimensional cylinder. After each pot was filled with soil, he offered the choice of “pea or bean” seeds for planting. Mr. Conway instructed them, “Make a little hole, not too deep. Plant just one seed. Cover it up. And when you get home, you’re going to water it.”
Many YMCA employees volunteered their time for this event. Kirsten Pinto, who usually works in the afterschool program as a teacher, volunteered her time to do face painting. Rodrigo Rego, who usually works in the cafe, was volunteering to make kid-friendly mint julep snow cones.
George Tankard of Vineyard Haven, wearing a gold medal on a red, white, and blue ribbon, usually works in the maintenance department. “This is a fantastic, wonderful, family event, and gets me out of the house to do something good for others,” he said. “There were some young boys and girls afraid to do the obstacle course, even though their parents were there. Once they saw an older adult, like me, go through and cheer them on, they were eager to do it themselves. And that’s what it’s all about.”