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AHA improves the health and well-being of Wake County residents by facilitating and supporting community initiatives.

Kids in Training: Creating a Community of Fit Families

When mom Maylene Jackson and several friends organized a triathalon for their kids in August 2003, Kids in Training (KIT) was born. Today this Cary-based nonprofit organization, an AHA partner, continues to organize races and events to get kids and their families moving, but KIT is about so much more than races and events.
“This is about getting kids inspired to go outside and do something,” Jackson said. “It’s not about making mini-triathletes, but about inspiring kids to run, bike and swim, and be outside just like when I was young. Kids used to go outside and play for hours, but now there’s so much structured activity that kids don’t just play outside, run and play tag the way they used to.”

Through Club KIT, Maylene creates communities of fit families. “If kids are interested in running, they meet other kids who are interested in running through Club KIT. Club members get together but in an unstructured way; they do it for fun and meet others who want to do the same things,” Jackson said. For instance, Club KIT members might meet casually at Harris Lake on a Sunday where they can canoe or kayak, or hike or bike the trails, or run. “When you know that other families are going to be there, it makes it fun and creates a support system for activity.”

A key component to Club KIT is that at least one parent must be involved. Jackson has found that lessons learned by kids aren’t sustained if the parents aren’t invested. So family members that join Club KIT receive a bi-weekly email with scheduled activities by date and area, 8 weekly workouts to prepare for an upcoming race, clinics led by KIT coaches and staff, such as first 5K or beginner triathalon, plus discounts on all KIT events. KIT is offering a spring special to all families that sign up before April 30: they will receive an extension on their annual membership until Sept. 30, 2012. That means a free summer and year full of activities and discounts keeping families fit!

Beyond the Races

KIT organizes triathalons and duathalons for kids and Adventure Races for teams of families, but KIT also works with schools and groups such as boys and girls clubs or Y Guides/Princesses on educational and fitness programs.

What’s In Your Lunch Box? is KIT’s 12-week program for small groups and schools that teaches kids what food is and what kinds of food you should eat at each meal. KIT will join kids in their classroom at lunchtime once a week, and parents are invited to come then or to one evening session a week (or participate via email if they simply cannot attend). Here again, parent involvement is crucial for sustainability. Designed for third/fourth grade level up, KIT can lead the group or customize this so that teachers have the tools to do the program on their own. The kids journal what they’ve eaten for lunch and their activity.

“So they have an increase in healthy eating, an increase in activity and a decrease in screen time. The kids log it and see their progress. There’s some positive peer pressure as there is a friendly competition about what you can log in your journal,” Jackson said.

KIT also works with schools to organize after school programs where KIT staff, a teacher or PTA volunteer stays after school two or three days a week for free play time. “Whoever is in charge can throw a bunch of balls and jump ropes outside, and the kids can run around and play and decide what they want to do for an hour or so,” Jackson commented. “I receive a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation newsletter about childhood obesity, and it bothers me to no end when I see millions being spent on new ways to get kids healthy. If we just look back to when kids were active, that’s the answer. It’s activity. Let’s just get the kids outside doing something.”

KIT’s 2011 season is about to get underway with events across Wake County. Learn more about KIT, upcoming events and programs at the web site to get your family inspired to be active outside. Contact KIT to learn how the organization can aid your school or organization with nutrition and physical activity programs.

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