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With early start to school, Y addresses need for child care

SoVaNow.com / August 07, 2013
With the new school year quickly approaching, many working parents and guardians are looking into before- and after-school care options. The need for before-school care has become a more pressing concern this year with new start and end times at the elementary level. The elementary school day in Mecklenburg County will begin at 8:15 a.m. and end at 3:35 p.m.

The Mecklenburg County YMCA, attempting to address the needs of local parents, is turning its child care program into a before- and after-school offering with a twist — there will also be a focus on healthy eating and exercise.

Nearly three years ago, YMCA USA announced its “Healthier Kids, Brighter Futures” initiative aimed at stemming the tide of childhood obesity. At the time Y-USA noted that “childhood obesity is a growing epidemic in America. An estimated 23 million children and teenagers ages two to 19 are obese or overweight. That rate has tripled in the past 30 years. For the first time in history, children may have shorter lifespan expectancies than their parents.”

Looking around the community and listening to parents and teachers, Michael DeNise, CEO of the Mecklenburg County YMCA, asked, “How can we help?” The answer was to start a specialty program that will provide a safe place for children to stay before and after school while teaching them to adopt and maintain healthy behaviors throughout their lives.

DeNise said the program begins August 19 and is fully licensed and insured. In addition to teaching healthy habits to the children, DeNise said there is an educational component for parents, encouraging them to buy fresh fruits and vegetables in place of sugary snacks and to participate in physical activity even if it means a quick walk with the family pet or 30 minutes of tag with neighborhood kids. The key is to get up and moving.

The YMCA program, which for now is being offered only at the Clarksville branch, is open to children between the ages of 4 and 12, regardless of whether they or their caregivers are members of the YMCA. Before-school hours start at 6:30 a.m. until the bus picks up the child around 8 a.m. After school, the program runs from 3:50-6 p.m. Buses will drop students off at the YMCA immediately after school, but it is up to the parents or guardians to pick up the children at the end of the day.

There is no bus pickup or drop-off for students who attend Chase City Elementary School.

The cost is $110 per month per child for YMCA members and $125 per month per child for non-members.

DeNise said there are so many things that children cannot control in their own lives, but there are three they can: eating healthy every day, engaging in at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day, and limiting the amount of time spent watching television or on the computer, other than for homework.

Anyone interested in the program should contact Linda Sorenson at the YMCA in Clarksville, 1567 Noblin Farm Road, or call 434-374-5858 or at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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