Delaware summer campers hit the pavement


Relay races with a nutritional spin got the blood pumping for some young summer campers in Wilmington.

Local teenagers who are part of Christiana Care Health System’s Camp FRESH led the exercises and even ran the course with the little kids who are part of Urban Promise’s Camp Victory at St. Joseph’s Church on N. French St. The relays had everyone running, doing jumping jacks and answering nutrition-related questions, like what healthy foods can you find at fast food restaurants, before knocking out 10 sit-ups.

Camp FRESH is an annual summer program that gives 50 Wilmington teenagers the opportunity to learn about good nutrition and exercise. The program then enables its participants to take the lessons they learned back home to their families and communities as ambassadors for healthier lifestyles.

This is Donald Major’s second year with the program. 

“I like the experiences, I enjoy the people, I just like really helping out, trying to figure out how to be healthy, help my family out to be healthy — my family has a lot of weight issues — so I like to help them try to be healthy and spreading my knowledge to other people,” said Major, who now takes walks with his mom to get them both moving.

The 19-year-old wants the children to see “that exercise can be fun, doesn’t have to be serious all the time. And it’s easier when you do it as a group, not just by yourself.”

Each year, the program gives campers the opportunity to work with different groups of people. This year, campers have been interacting with young children.

Camp FRESH is divided into two groups based on age. The 17-19 age range group comes to Camp Victory once a week, while the younger group, ages 13-16, visit campers at Camp Hope in the Southbridge section of Wilmington.

“Their presence and their willingness to come in as a huge group, I think, is good for the kids because they get a lot of attention and they recognize that there’s other people that care about them, and the way they’re living and the decisions that they’re making, so that’s really encouraging to them,” said Camp Victory Director Bethany Gregor.

Three-year camp veteran Taquiera Evans, 17, said the program has helped her make some lifestyle changes.

“I play more sports and I eat a lot healthier, and I drink more water than I do juice and I stopped drinking soda, I actually just completely stopped,” said Evans, who even got her mom to cut back on her soda intake. Evans said the two of them also bake more of their meals rather than deep-frying them.

“The earlier we can reach kids and their families, the better,” said Omar A. Khan, M.D., MHS, medical director of the Eugene DuPont Preventive Medicine & Rehabilitation Institute and the Center for Community Health in the Department of Family & Community Medicine. “Through Camp FRESH, we have an incredible opportunity to stop health issues like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease right in their tracks.”

Camp FRESH meets twice weekly for eight weeks each summer at Christiana Care’s Eugene du Pont Preventive Medicine & Rehabilitation Institute in Wilmington. Campers don’t just learn about how to eat well and exercise though. They also learn about anger management, drug and alcohol abuse prevention and even diabetes care. 

“The kids, once a week, are meeting with a resident doctor through Christiana Care and they’re actually teaching them how to be a mentor and a coach to someone in their family that has diabetes,” said Isaac Hicks, a community educator with Camp FRESH. “The kids are also getting a sexual health curriculum.” 

The evidence-based program, Hicks said, is centered around getting kids to think about the choices they’re making sexually, whether it’s using condoms, getting tested on a regular basis or communicating more openly with their partners.

In past years, Camp FRESH teens have helped build raised-bed gardens and ran produce stands at Howard High School and at Wilmington Hospital. They also helped establish Wilmington’s first urban farm at 12th and Brandywine Streets.

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