October 20, 2021

Kids get active in free SUNY program

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

SUNY Cortland kinesiology student Ron Duppert works with Timmy Hudson, 7, of Homer at the Cortland YMCA.

Kristina Brown said so far, so good, for her 7-year-old son, Timmy, who just started his first week in the Healthy Now Teen Program.

The free program offered by SUNY Cortland’s Kinesiology Department gets kids active and teaches them healthy eating.

“Dr. (Mohammad) Djafari told me about it,” said the Homer woman of her Cortland pediatrician. “It’s for weight control, to get him a little bit more active,” she said.

Healthy Now Teen Program, which is offered 4 to 5:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday during the school year, is staffed by college students in the Kinesiology program and is overseen by Philip J. Buckenmeyer, associate professor and chairman of the department at SUNY Cortland.

It’s generally for ages 10- to 15-years old but it is for almost any age if a pediatrician refers a child, said Buckenmeyer.

“A lot of kids we see are not involved in their athletic programs in school,” Buckenmeyer said. “They are looking for a way to be involved in activities, to have their own activity support group. We provide those supports for them. Teens love college kids. Once they get to know them, they have fun.”

Timmy said he likes swimming the best and on a recent Friday, had the whole swimming pool at the YMCA to himself.

The program takes place Mondays at SUNY Cortland, Wednesdays at the YWCA and Fridays at the YMCA.

“He loves it,” his mom said. “He learned to play tag here. He goes home and wants to play tag. He looks forward to something other than staying at home and being cold. It gets him active,” said Brown.

At the college, youth can do aerobic activities, walking, tennis, racquetball, scavenger hunts, martial arts exercises, Zumba.

“It depends on the expertise of some of the students,” Buckenmeyer said.

And the YMCA and YWCA let the students and staff use their facilities for free.

“We do simple nutrition exercises with teens. We have done nutritional jeopardy. We show how much sugar is in drinks. We have made healthy smoothies with kids,” he said.

The program was initiated by ReBecca Smith in 2010, health educator at the Cortland Health Department, who partnered with SUNY Cortland, YMCA, YWCA, and Seven Valleys Health Coalition to offer healthy activities to teens for weight loss. Buckenmeyer was a partner at that point. She asked Buckenmeyer to take it over after a year and a half because of funding issues. His emphasis is fun exercise and the nutrition component.

Matt Martone, a second year graduate student in the Kineisology Department, supervises the kids and students who volunteer for the program. He organizes activities.

“Anything that lets the kids have fun without realizing that they are exercising. That’s the important part, that they enjoy their time with us,” said Martone. If they have fun they will more likely do it, he said.

People can contact the Kinesiology Department to sign their child up by calling Julie LaPlant, secretary, at 607-753-4300.

“It’s 100 percent free and there’s always room for more kids,” said Martone. Buckenmeyer said they can accommodate around ten kids. They’ve been getting between two and five.