'Amazing Race’ Health Fair for Kids Encourages Youngsters to Stay Active
Several kids jumped, ran and learned about health inside Walsh University’s Gaetano Checcini Gym and Fitness Center Thursday afternoon
Eleven-year-old Nicole Giordano knows certain foods are bad for you. Take butter, for instance. She can even tell you why it’s unhealthy.
“Because it’s red,” Nicole said.
Well, not literally. But she learned Thursday from Walsh University physical therapy students that foods fit into certain categories. The “stoplight diet,” as the students called it, groups food into categories of healthy (green), sort of healthy (yellow), or, like butter, not at all healthy (red).
“We learned what foods are good to eat and what foods aren’t,” Nicole said inside Walsh University’s Gaetano Checcini Gym and Fitness Center Thursday.
Walsh physical therapy students, as part of a service learning project, hosted the “Amazing Race” Health Fair for Kids. Students came up with the concept, which involved several learning stations throughout the gym — and lots of physical activity.
Third-year physical therapy students collaborated on the project, said Christine McCallum, director of clinical education and faculty coordinator for the service project. They worked on another component, too: an event earlier that day that involved older adults. Then first-year physical therapy students helped run the health fair that day.
The event allowed students to work on their interpersonal communication and work with different types of people — something they have to do once they’re working in the health field.
“The kids are a little challenging because it’s ‘therapeutic play,’” McCallum said, laughing. “The adults are a lot easier to control.”
McCallum applauded the students for their work in devising and managing the event.
“As faculty, we really think this event, what they’ve done, is wonderful,” she said.
Drew Schlabach, a third-year student in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program, said the students worked throughout the semester to collaborate on the service project.
“We wanted to promote healthy lifestyles in young children,” Schlabach said. “Research shows if they can begin a healthy lifestyle at a younger age, they’re more likely to continue that healthy lifestyle as an adult.”
He said the event offered health screenings, obstacle courses and education about how to stay active whether you’re indoors or outside.
The event put third-year students in the role of mentors as they worked with first-year students. It also helped everyone, regardless of class rank, work with all types of people, he said.
“As physical therapy students, we’re going to be working with all different personalities and age groups,” Schlabach said.
Walsh University invited students from schools throughout Stark County, including Portage Collaborative Montessori School, North Canton City Schools and those in the SMARTS after-school program through Mercy Medical Center.
Karen Feller and Karen McElhaney, both of Mercy Medical Center, took part in the health fair along with the SMARTS students and tutors.
As part of the SMARTS program, the medical center has worked in Skyline Terrace — an urban, subsidized housing community in Southeast Canton — for 17 years. The area, which includes more than 400 apartments, is mainly low-income families of women and children.
“Our focus is to look at health because we’re a health institute — to look at health care holistically and find ways the community can be strengthened in the areas of health and safety," Feller said.
They said Thursday typically would have been the kids’ tutoring night, but they couldn’t pass up a chance to show the kids a university setting and, they hoped, give them something to aspire to.