FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – In the spirit of Thanksgiving, three members of the Northern Arizona swimming & diving team recently worked with a group of kids at Flagstaff's Boys & Girls Club to promote living a healthy lifestyle. For seniors Emma Lowther, Rachel Palmer and Jane Wakefield, what started out as a class project turned out to be a life-changing experience for everyone.
"A lot of kids their age don't understand how important it is to maintain good nutrition and physical activity and as college athletes we have a really strong idea of that importance," Palmer said. "Giving back to the community makes us feel really great. At one point, one of the girls came running out that the NAU students were here and gave me a big hug. That made me feel great about doing this and I really enjoyed it."
It all began with a decision that Lowther, Palmer and Wakefield, who are all public health majors, made to do a health intervention for one of their classes. The intervention was based around physical activity and healthy eating at the local Boys & Girls Club. The trio worked with the kids once or twice a week for four weeks and did a variety of things with them throughout the month of October and into the first week of November.
The activities included games such as basketball or dodgeball and stretching routines. Lowther, Palmer and Wakefield also spoke about the importance of hydrating while participating in physical activities. They even took the kids to Sprouts Farmers Market to teach them about how to shop for healthy foods and conducted cooking lessons.
"It was really rewarding; we've been doing workouts and living a healthy lifestyle for years now so to give some of that knowledge back to the kids was really fun," Lowther said. "The kids loved it as much as we did. We did a pre and post assessment and there was a lot of improvement, so that was cool since it was a really short program. They really seemed to benefit."
Lowther, Palmer and Wakefield went above and beyond their class requirements because of the great reception they received from the kids. It is possible that the three student-athletes return to the Boys & Girls Club and this time bring some of their teammates as well.
"I didn't want to stop going so maybe we'll try to start something up with the team," Lowther said. "The Boys & Girls Club is often overlooked in Flagstaff. It's cool to give back and have a positive impact on kids who may or may not have the same opportunities that I had. For them to see positive role models on a consistent basis is important and this (intervention) did a lot more for me than I anticipated it would."