SPRING VALLEY – It was a hot summer morning Tuesday, and most of the streets and parks in Spring Valley were quiet as residents sought shelter from the heat.
But at Kirby Park in Spring Valley, nearly 100 children were playing, laughing and learning in the shade of the trees.
The children were participating in the fifth annual Healthy Kids Camp, sponsored by St. Margaret’s Hospital, Illinois Valley Community College and the University of Illinois Extension. The camp is free and offered to children in kindergarten through eighth grade, as of Fall 2013.
On Tuesday, Ted Alejos, 10, of Spring Valley was back for his fifth year of camp. Ted said he liked "basically everything" about camp, and especially playing dodgeball.
"Dodgeball is fun, and it keeps me entertained," he said. "Everything you do at camp is fun."
For St. Margaret’s and IVCC, the goal of this camp is to provide recreational activities to all students in the Illinois Valley area with a special emphasis on stressing healthy lifestyle choices. With childhood obesity on the rise, as well as juvenile diabetes, this camp emphasizes the importance of making healthy food choices and staying active by exercising.
Marissa Boehm, 10, also of Spring Valley is a believer. Marissa, who is attending camp for her fifth year, said she liked coming to camp because she got to have a lot of fun and to play all the time.
Marissa also thought camp was educational.
"You need to stay healthy," she said.
Tracie Klieber, a fitness instructor at Illinois Valley Community College, is back for her fourth year and is leading the third, fourth and fifth grade group.
Klieber said it's very important to get the kids moving. Camp begins with exercise, and then the kids play games.
"We're teaching them how to be healthy," she said.
Sadie Thornton is learning that lesson. Sadie, 8, of Princeton was back for her second year of camp. She said she liked "everything" about camp, especially talking to the teachers.
Sadie also learned something important.
"Exercise is better than sitting around," she said.
But healthy kids are more than just physically fit.
Klieber said the children get to learn how to make friends, show respect to other kids and adults, and play without bullying or name-calling.
John Davis, 9, of Spring Valley said he had been coming to the camp for many years. His favorite activities are playing dodgeball and anything that involves "getting wet."
John said he had learned a lot at camp.
"I learned not to bully people," he said.
Klieber has seen changes in the kids who attend camp. She remembered one really shy boy last year who, by the end of camp, was running with the other kids. Klieber really saw how much he had progressed on the last day of camp, which was water day. The boy got a cup of water, called Klieber's name, and threw the water at her.
"He's the last child I would have expected that of at the beginning of camp," she said with a laugh.
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