Allegheny Y

by Megan Trimble

Northside children can eat, sleep, play and learn their way to a healthier lifestyle this spring.

The Allegheny Y is offering a Healthy Family Home Training Camp for children 5 to 12-years-old accompanied by a guardian from March 4 through May 20. The free, 12-week childhood obesity prevention program will be held Monday evenings from 6 to 7 p.m.

William Pricener, executive director of the Allegheny YMCA, said the Y is excited to offer the program for the second year and hopes to build off of the success of the trial program that concluded at the end of last year. The camp, Pricener said, aims to engage the entire family in healthier practices.

“It has to start in the family, not just the individual, and everyone has to buy into it,” he said. “It can’t just be: ‘Oh, little Johnny has a weight problem’ The entire family needs to work together to learn to eat better, go outside more and act healthier.”

Those who participate in the Healthy Family Home Training Camp can qualify for additional programing opportunities.

Attending 10 of 12 sessions qualifies families for a free limited membership and the participants can also attend monthly family fun nights and potentially receive a family camping experience, which is rewarded to families who visit regularly.

“We will be offering something new each week, but the carrot, so to speak, is not just to get healthy, but to also receive a free nine-month family membership,” Pricener said. “We are hoping to start [families] on a healthy lifestyle and then they can come in together on a monthly basis to continue it.”

The camp program reached the Northside location from the national YMCA level. The Greater Pittsburgh Y identified a childhood obesity problem throughout Allegheny County and pursued the grant money necessary to fund the program locally.

The camp is supported by a grant to the Greater Pittsburgh YMCA system from the Pittsburgh Foundation and the Highmark Foundation.

“Knowing the Northside and knowing that not all of us live as healthy as we should, we see this as a way for us to help promote those positive lifestyles,” Pricener said.

Past programming included cooking classes, nutrition classes, a grocery store tour and learning to read product labels. Future programs may differ from the past selection, but all relate to five areas of a healthy lifestyle — eat well, play everyday, get together, go outside and sleep well.

According to Pricener, the Homewood/Brushton Y and the Wilmerding Y will also offer the camp, and the Greater Pittsburgh Y is hoping to reach 36 families this round across the association.

Last year, the Allegheny Y’s program concluded with eight participating families. This year, the Y has set a goal to reach 12 to 16 families.

The Allegheny YMCA has worked with families on the Northside since the establishment of its 600 West North Ave. location in 1927.

While the organization was originally founded on projects that catered to providing services for grade school boys, high school boys and young men, in recent times it has worked to expand its services across genders and age groups.

The Y is working to incorporate more programming focused to children to expand its family base and children members among its 1,400 members, comprised mostly of adults.

“The camp is the main [children’s program] right now that we are focusing on, and we are trying to get more kids involved so that entire families can understand what we offer and the lifestyle we promote,” Pricener said.

Registration for the camp is limited and those interested can register by contacting the Allegheny Y’s Director of Healthy Living, Marisa Iverson at miverson@ymcapgh.org, or by contacting the Allegheny YMCA at 412-321-8594.