Stop the Supersizing
by Cate Murway

All across America, there are just too many kids carrying way too much weight.
Their posture is susceptible to injury, possibly from heavy backpacks, but carrying around too much body weight endangers their actual health.

Many practitioners define obesity, currently one of the most pressing health crises, as being 20% above normal weight.
Obese children are also more likely to have risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and Type 2 diabetes.
Preventing obesity during childhood is critical. We're apparently in danger of raising the first generation of American children who will live sicker and die younger than the generation before them.

“Energy and persistence conquer all things.” Benjamin Franklin

The Latino Leadership Alliance, a non-profit 501-C3 organization, is a bilingual and bicultural resource providing information, education, family services and advocacy to the Latino community in Bucks County. They run the First Light After School Program and the New Dawn summer camp. Healthy lifestyle choices, discouraging violence and the use and abuse of drugs and alcohol are incorporated into their activities.
Cultural enrichment activities and workshops provide education and information to promote the sharing and understanding of Latino family values, traditions and heritage.
Services are available to all county residents regardless of race, color, religion, sex, nationality, disability or age.

On Thursday, July 29th a group from concerned organizations, health workers, educators, politicians, and faith based members and parents were invited by President, Theresa Marie [Stahl] Conejo to brainstorm at the Latino Leadership Alliance of Bucks County, 229 Mill Street to form the "Bucks County Fit Kids Coalition".

Per Theresa, “There was a wealth of information shared and I am excited about our grassroots effort. I know with this strong, energetic group we can achieve much success in fighting childhood obesity. For those of you who are facebook members, check out the Fit Kids Coalition of Bucks County site, join and encourage your friends to join! It works!
The plan is to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic by removing barriers and creating environments, communities and policies that provide children and their families with greater access to healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity.”

Bucks County Fit Kids Coalition is a framework for people and organizations to develop and implement strategies into evidence-based interventions to literally change the dimensions of historic Bristol on the Delaware.
The LLABC also offers scholarship awards based on Academic Performance and Financial Need to Bucks County resident Latino students either currently attending a two or four year program or graduating high school seniors.
Making positive and significant contributions to improving every aspect of the health of children and youth, building better minds and bodies, is an investment that won’t crash.

Per Nazareth Hospital cardiac R.N. Theresa Conejo, promoting healthier diet and encouraging more exercise habits among U.S. children is also part of the American Heart Association's national agenda this year. Theresa is a member of the National Committee of the American Heart Association. She joined the LLABC Board of Directors and began working with the Alliance 6 years ago at the request of President Emeritis/ Advisory Board member Gladys Mendieta, a co-founder of this voice for the Latino community along with the late, Anibal "Kiki" Rosado, BHS '74.
This is her venture but her husband, Ignacio, a construction worker, “fixes the place”.

At the first workshop session, the participants used their thoughts and ideas as colors and brushes on a fresh new canvas. Everyone exhibited a vested interest in keeping it fun.

LLABC caseworker Yecenia “Jeannie” Vazquez is originally from Chicago. Her involvement with the program began when her now grown son was enrolled. She works on Mondays and Fridays helping Latinos overcome language and cultural barriers and assists them to get better acclimated to the community. Jeannie helps them with school letter translations and is the vehicle for referral and dissemination of information about resources and education and careers and employment. 
Educational Enrichment Programs include English as a second language for adults (ESL) and Computer classes.

Tonia Maria [Durham] Carroll is a former home/health aid who also took care of the elderly. She works in the Homework Zone, offering support and helping the students commit to a consistent schoolwork completion schedule in an environment conducive to study. College and career information is made available also.
Tonia is the mother if three children, Candace, BHS ’12 and twins Faith and Isaiah, BHS ’15, and she also works in the summer camp that provides breakfast and lunch for the 5-12 year-olds, facilitating a variety of empowering life skills workshops designed to help the children have an easier time handling conflicts and resisting negative pressures.
The programs include ones on decision-making, introductions to the process of making good decisions. A facet of training young people to make decisions that are not foolish is to show them a way to make wise ones. 
Some programs are chosen to polish self-esteem, a child's armor against the challenges of the world.
The helpful “good touch/bad touch” informational programs are provided through the Network of Victim Assistance [NOVA].

Congressman Patrick J. Murphy’s Outreach Director, Larry Glick was born and raised on a farm. He has 2 children and 4 grandchildren.
Congressman Murphy has been very proactive about meeting with municipal governments; nonprofits, service organizations and school districts to better understand their issues and challenges and perhaps help with funding or in other ways. They were already involved in initiatives in Central Bucks and Upper Bucks and they were interested in learning what was happening down here in Bristol.
The House Committee on Education and Labor just passed a Child Nutrition Bill.
It supports farm to school programs, which increases kids’ access to fresh, local produce. It also promises to “establish school gardens and use more local foods in school cafeterias”. 

“Resident fitness guru”/wellness coach Beatriz Salamanca was very interested in helping out in any way she can. She and Theresa have worked together on other health oriented ventures, checking Lady of Fatima parishioners’ blood pressures and BMI and hydration levels. “The meeting this evening was great, everyone had awesome ideas.”

Nutraceutical consultant, R.N. Georgia M. Hampton RNC, NC, an NAACP Health Committee member is “onboard for health and wellness.”
Georgia suggested an educational night to involve parents and the families, so everyone learns together. Most kids are realistic and generally optimistic. The parents can begin by sharing ideas, talking WITH their children instead of talking TO them. “I think this is a wonderful initiative.”

LLABC Treasurer Felix Romero is the development coordinator for Our Lady of Fatima Parish.
Theresa Conejo said, “He was a great motivator; such a ‘people person’.” She asked he and his wife, Diana Sanchez-Romero to be board members.
They are originally from Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico and then they moved to the Bronx.
Now Bensalem residents, they “fell in love with the area”.

Joanne Burgess is a member of the non-profit Bucks County Opportunity Council that helps low-income persons achieve economic self-sufficiency. She previously was a restaurant manager and is now involved at BCOC securing surplus healthy fresh fruits and vegetables for food pantries.
Suggestions included stocking the house with healthy foods, and drinking water and milk most often.

The goal is to reach the kids before they begin turning into adults with heart issues.
The Latino Leadership Alliance is avidly using hands-on exploration and cooking activities through simple, healthy recipes using fresh, affordable ingredients to foster children’s enjoyment and consumption of healthy foods, as well as their appreciation for good nutrition. “If they can make it, they’ll eat it.”

Let’s work together to increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables, reduce the consumption of sugary soft drinks and high-calorie foods, increase physical activity and decrease “screen time” spent in front of TVs and computers.
The more time spent on these sitting-down activities, the less time available for active stuff, like basketball, soccer, running, bike riding, and swimming.
The goal is also to have the children more involved in the community so that they may acquire a better understanding of their civic responsibilities. Parents can lead by example.

LLABC motto is “Taking from our past to construct our future.”

Mentoring opportunities are endless.
Everyone can become an advocate for a health and fitness legacy in our community, underscoring our strong small town relationships and collaborative efforts. We can work together for positive change, become teachers without borders in a classroom without walls and everyone can serve as role models.

Check the Bristol Borough calendar for a plethora of exhilarating events.
You are cordially invited to participate in an incredibly upbeat, fun Zumbathon on the wharf. This is an exciting spicy Latin rhythms event that includes the best Zumba dancing and exercise. Date to be determined.
Lace your running shoes and tie ‘em tight. Line up for the 43rd Annual Mill Street Run on Saturday, September 11th. It’s a 2.9mile tour of the town!

Get moving towards a healthier you with your friends and family. Sign up as a group or individually; make a commitment to yourself and to the Bucks County Fit Kids Coalition.
C’mon, just for the “health” of it!

For more information contact
Theresa M. Conejo RN
Latino Leadership Alliance of Bucks County
229 Mill Street
AHA National Advocacy Member

Recommend a “Spotlight”. E-mail

President Theresa Conejo; camp director Tonia Carroll;
Congressman Murphy's outreach director Larry Glick