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Wilton Y Earns Grant for Healthy Living Programs

WILTON, Conn. — The Wilton Family Y , a co-leader of the Wilton Alliance for a Healthier Community, reminds parents about the importance of incorporating regular physical activity and healthier eating habits into their children's lives as part of National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month in September.

For the past two years, the Y and several other local youth-serving organizations, civic leaders and concerned citizens have been implementing an action plan made possible by a $52,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Center to Combat Childhood Obesity and the YMCA of the USA. The Wilton Y was one of only six YMCAs in Connecticut to receive the award.

A community team of 12 steering committee members and 35 additional people serving on subcommittees form the Wilton Alliance for a Healthier Community, and this group has spearheaded many local initiatives to encourage children and families to increase physical activity and eat healthier.

Because of these accomplishments, the Wilton Y was notified that it will receive a $10,000 Continuation Grant from Robert Wood Johnson and Y USA to sustain ongoing efforts and develop new initiatives through 2013.

Some of the accomplishments have been: designation of a Pedestrian Zone following the sidewalk system along Route 7 from Olmstead Hill to Wolfpit Road; purchasing 55 banners for Wilton Center lampposts encouraging walking/biking/strolling instead of driving; collaborating with Wilton Go Green on "Take a Walk in the Woods," the Go Green Festival, and the upcoming bike ride to promote the Norwalk River Valley Trail ; funding a pilot program at Middlebrook School for the Fitnessgram physical education tracking system; partnering with the Wilton Library and Ancona's Market for a community presentation on how to improve kids' food options; upgrading snack choices in vending machines at Comstock Community Center and the Y to provide healthier choices; discussing menu labeling with restaurants to flag healthy options; working with pediatricians to "prescribe" exercise and healthier eating habits for children at risk for obesity; participating in the public school Wellness Committee; installing nine bicycle racks throughout the Pedestrian Zone; funding three youth-managed vegetable gardens in town and the construction of three Wellness Kiosks with trail maps; contributing to the new greenhouse at Ambler Farm to extend the growing season; supporting the relocation and expansion of the Wilton Farmers' Marke t; planning a centrally located Wellness Park with fitness stations; purchasing and installing signs for the Wilton section of the proposed Norwalk River Valley Trail ; supporting construction of a pedestrian bridge to access Wilton Center from the Wilton train station; monitoring soft drink tax legislation, safe routes to school and new sidewalk installation through the Connecticut State YMCA Alliance.

Carol Johnson, community team leader for the alliance, said, "Childhood obesity rates have soared over the last few decades. Nationally, one in three children is obese or overweight, while many children in our own town are susceptible due to time spent with electronic devices and our culture of going everywhere by car. Obesity puts children at risk for chronic diseases often seen in adults, such as high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and type-2 diabetes.

"The key to fighting childhood obesity is prevention. Regular physical activity and nutritious foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains can significantly lower a child's chances of becoming overweight. It's important to note that the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity can be achieved through a number of activities throughout the entire day – it doesn't have to be done all at once. Getting kids more active through walking, biking and playing is an important factor in fostering good health."

The Wilton Family Y Afterschool Programs are joining the campaign to prevent childhood obesity by launching the nationally recognized CATCH program for the 2011-12 school year. Y Afterschool Director Laura Koellmer said, "CATCH is a Coordinated Approach To Child Health proven to reduce the rate of child obesity and improve children's health-related behaviors. The CATCH physical education program was developed after 15 years of solid research and evidence to support its design and content. The Y also offers instructional programs in swimming, gymnastics, sports, karate and paddle tennis to keep children active and on the move and these can be taken separately or integrated into the afterschool programs."

Y Executive Director Bob McDowell said, "We know that many families struggle to find ways to eat healthier and set aside time for physical activity every day. Therefore, the impetus behind our work through the Wilton Alliance for a Healthier Community and our Y healthy living and youth development programs is to meet the needs of families in the community by helping make the healthier choice an easier choice."

To learn more about the activities of the Wilton Alliance for a Healthier Community and the Wilton Y' s Healthy Living Programs, contact Y Development Director Karen Strickland at 203-762-8384, Ext. 279, or kstrick@wiltonymca.org , or Y Afterschool Director Laura Koellmer at 203-762-8384, Ext. 293, or lkoellmer@wiltonymca.org .

Have you taken part in any of the Wilton Alliance for a Healthier Community programs? Leave a comment below. Find TheDailyWilton.com on Facebook and like us.

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