Tempe kids ages 6 to 14 were hopping and crawling through hurdles, running drills and playing games with Tempe firefighters during a free event at the Tempe Beach Park during a sunny Saturday afternoon earlier this month.
The outside event brought kids together for a fitness camp designed to help children develop better exercise habits, all focused on battling the epidemic of childhood obesity that is growing across the nation.
“One in every three kids in the United States is overweight or obese, and we have a lot of firefighters who are involved in the community as youth group leaders or athletic coaches,” said Kyle Brayer, one of the participating Tempe firefighters.
“So we all kind of teamed up and donated our time to come out to raise awareness and let the kids have some fun. It’s fun for us, too.”
Thirty off-duty firefighters of Local 493 volunteered their time to instruct the kids as they worked their way through stations specially developed for the program. The coaches taught each group age-appropriate exercises, drills and games. Parents were encouraged to attend and talk with coaches about how to implement the same skills at home.
“Today, we’re focusing on muscle strengthening, bone strengthening and aerobic conditions,” Brayer said. “It’s really important to keep those kids ages 6 to 14 active when they’re in that developmental stage.”
More than 20 kids with parents came out during the Saturday event, running through miniature obstacle courses with smiles across their faces.
“We have a lot of hopping and jumping – everything is games and drills,” Brayer said. “It’s all really fun for the kids, and the activities are ones they can do at home. Even though we have some neat toys out here, like hurdles and pile boxes, we’re telling all the parents and kids that they can throw down something like a towel and jump over that at home.”
Marissa Mena, who brought her “little sister” with the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization to the camp, said she found out about the event from the organization.
“It’s such a great day to be outside and to get a little exercise,” said Mena, as her little sister helped carry a fire hose park. “I think she’s having a great time.”
Tempe resident Kristin Salaba brought her little sister, Sage, to the hour-long event.
“I think it’s great because it brings the community together, and all the kids get to play together instead of being inside doing video games,” Salaba said.
Sage said her favorite part of the day was playing a “shark game,” a form of a tag during which kids chased each other around in a grassy area.
According to the firefighters, the camp provides an opportunity to volunteer time that will help make a difference in the community. The program is funded and staffed by off-duty Tempe firefighters.
At the end of the event, children received free Tempe Fire Department backpacks with information packets on healthy eating and good exercise habits.
For more information on upcoming youth fitness camps, visit www.tempefirefighters.com. Although early signups are not required, large youth groups and participants in organized athletic programs are encouraged to pre-register before future events.