By Robbie Owens

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Summers are no longer a sedentary affair for 10-year-old Destany Ramirez. The Dallas fifth grader will spend the day moving and grooving in a dance camp at Voices of Hope, a West Dallas non-profit, before returning to Parkland’s Camp CHAMPS later this summer to learn more about nutrition, exercise and good choices.

“It makes you more energized, more pumped up… like you have a lot of sugar in your body,” says Ramirez. “But, it’s not that, it’s what they teach you that makes you want to be on the run and go-go-go!”

The ‘CHAMPS’ stands for choosing healthy activities, meals and positive self -esteem. Beginning Monday, five free, week long camps are scheduled at various locations throughout the city.


“We’re trying to reach these latch key kids that would otherwise be staying at home, sitting on the couch playing video games and watching television,” says Jeff Howard, a Parkland Community Development Specialist. “For a lot of our kids, this is really the only chance that they may have to go to camp.”

The camps are designed to be high energy, hands on, and fun—but, Howard says there’s an element of fiscal responsibility in the push as well. “One in four children are overweight or obese,” says Howard, “and overweight children tend to become overweight adults. If we can reach them now, teach them that overweight children are going to incur higher health expenses, they are going to miss more school and even be subject to self-esteem issues like bullying and things of that nature.”

Experts say obesity is a multi-billion dollar drain on the nation’s healthcare system and encouraging healthier choices in children will hopefully pay off, since taxpayers pick up much of that tab. And children’s choices quite often drive the family’s eating habits.

“It makes you excited as a parent that your kid’s on the right path,” says Destany’s Mom, Starlet Ramirez. “And they’re holding you accountable: ‘Mom, do we have our fruits and vegetables today? Is that the proper serving?’”

Ramirez says Camp CHAMPS was a win for the entire family.

“It was a great summer! They came home with all kinds of examples of what cigarettes do to your body… what drugs will do to your body, what bullying will do to you and the person you’re bullying. They want to go outside and ride their bike instead of renting another movie, they want to go to the park and swing, and as an adult that just motivates you.”

Because now, Mom has to get moving, just to keep up!

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