(From left) Angelica Joaquin, 13, her sister Anabella, 2-1/2, and their mother Sandra take a walk through their neighborhood in Aurora. | Submitted
Updated: September 23, 2012 6:07AM
The ProActive Kids (PAK) Foundation offers 8- to 14-year-old DuPage County kids a free program that can start them on the path to achieving their goal weight and a healthier lifestyle.
The PAK Plan provides tools for the journey based on input from child health specialists, and is taught through activities that are fun for the kids and their families.
Edward Hospital sponsors the eight-week PAK sessions three times a year at the Edward Health & Fitness Center in Woodridge.
The next session begins Sept. 17. Edward is one of the organizations the PAK Foundation teams with to support its mission: “Reversing the obesity trend, one community at a time.”
There’s also a PAK site in Wheaton.
“What’s unique about the PAK program is that it involves the whole family,” says Cheryl Eck, Edward’s director of e-Health.
“And it addresses not only fitness and nutrition, but also emotional issues that can get in the way of a healthy lifestyle.”
Sandra Joaquin of Aurora and her 13-year-old daughter, Angelica, completed the spring session at the Woodridge site.
“Angelica was reluctant to join the program at first,” Sandra says.
“I told her, ‘Just try it.’ It turned out we loved it. Angelica made friends that she’s still in touch with. And on top of that, she lost 10 pounds.”
The PAK program meets from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays, and from 4 to 6 p.m. Fridays.
Parents join their kids for the Friday sessions.
Among other activities, the Friday sessions feature a 40-minute nutrition lesson led by an Edward registered dietitian.
Each week also includes three 45-minute fitness sessions focused on increasing strength, flexibility, cardiovascular and muscular endurance, and reducing body fat.
Lifestyle coaching is the final component of the PAK Plan. At the Woodridge site, licensed clinical therapists from Linden Oaks at Edward lead activities that teach valuable coping skills, build participants’ confidence and encourage communication.
“The lifestyle coaching is critical. People don’t always think about what’s really causing them to gain weight,” says Monica Prestifilippo of the PAK Foundation.
“Often a broader look at their relationship with food is needed. In lifestyle, the kids take the key step of verbalizing why eating is so important to them. Looking at the emotional piece can help them figure out what they can change for the better.”
The family commitment also is key. Parents learn how modeling a healthier lifestyle can help their children sustain what they started at PAK.
Sandra says she has become a better informed grocery shopper. And the family has become more active. Angelica bikes more, and she and Sandra recently participated in a 5K walk.
“The (PAK) program was life changing, and I’m so grateful that it was free,” Sandra says.
To be eligible for PAK, a child needs a physician referral and a BMI-for-age (body mass index) at or above the 85th percentile. BMI is a tool to screen for a weight category that could lead to health problems. Ask your doctor if your child qualifies.
To enroll, call 630-681-1558 or visit www.proactivekids.org. Space is limited. If you need to cancel your reservation, please do so as early as possible so the spot can be available to another family.
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courtesy of Edward Hospital