Program benefits Down childrenWritten by Lauren Farnsworth | | firstname.lastname@example.org
In late April, an exercise program sponsored by the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Toledo (DSAGT) debuted to help children with Down syndrome. The program’s goal is to help those children lose weight, as the association says it has been shown they are at higher risk for obesity. The program is open to the general public, but the Saturday classes are geared towards younger children.
Carla Mruzek, an aerobic instructor for 12 years, said, “I love it, it is so beneficial for kids and so much fun to see them work out and have fun doing it. [It’s an] incredible program, not to mention [you can] work out with family and friends.”
Sandy Wiley-Steward, Toledo Public Schools’ Special Olympics coordinator, said the DSAGT board provides, “unlimited funding [for the program]; they realize the problem with childhood obesity in this generation as a whole. Unfortunately … families don’t do things together and this is a great opportunity.”
DSAGT and Special Olympics work to generate interest in the program and increase family involvement. The vision of the DSAGT, according to its Web site, “is to increase the public’s awareness and understanding by educating the public, professionals and community regarding the abilities of people with Down syndrome, not their disabilities. It is our goal to enhance the quality of their lives and promote independence, allowing them to reach their fullest potential.”
About 30 families are involved in the Wednesday program, which is in its third week, according to Wiley-Steward. Although Wiley-Steward said she is happy with the community’s response, she would like to reach more people.
“Toledo Public Schools just needs to recruit families and bring them in here. There are so many more out there that need to get here; I don’t know how to reach them.”
In addition to exercise, the program is a social event and a support system for families. One mother held her baby daughter (who has Down syndrome) and simply observed the activities.
One of those activities was a quick game of musical chairs during which one of the younger children erupted into smiles. The other children quickly sat down and left him standing in wonder.
“I’d really like [the kids] to develop friendships here and then go to a movie, or Putt-Putt. [This is an opportunity] which they never had and you never know what could come out of it,” Wiley-Steward said.
One of the mothers, Martha Sattler, said, “This is the first class we’ve went to; it’s really wonderful and the kids really had fun. It’s a fantastic idea [the program is] really needed.”
Wiley-Steward plans to continue the program all summer. For information, call (419) 471-1871 or (419) 243-5444.