On April 16, the Growing Healthy Children (GHC) Walk & Run will celebrate 10 years of encouraging families to get out and get active. Growing Healthy Children is a free event offered to families throughout Butte County, and beyond, in an effort to motivate families to enjoy the outdoors, be active, and most importantly, have fun.
The event is held in Bidwell Park, starting off with a non-competitive 1-mile or 5k run through lower Bidwell Park. In past years, the Chico City Mayor or another local celebrity has sounded the starting horn, followed by motivational music and family members cheering everyone on as they cross the starting line. The event also offers kid’s sprints for younger running enthusiasts.
According to founder and co-chair Steve Naiman, the idea behind GHC was not anything novel. Chico is known for staging numerous walking and running events to promote awareness of good health and disease prevention. However, for a family of four to participate in any of the fundraising events that take place in the park, the cost is usually well in excess of $100. Many families that live in Chico or neighboring communities just can’t afford to pay that much, so they are left out of these fun, family-oriented events.
Growing Healthy Children relies on support from local individuals and businesses that sponsor the event to keep it free for families. Both cash and in-kind sponsors are instrumental to the success and longevity of the program. “Together, we make it possible for everyone to come out and enjoy a beautiful day in the park,” Naiman said.
Leading up to the run, students from local elementary schools are encouraged to participate in an art contest, illustrating what the event means to them. Past entries have featured kids and families, fruits and veggies, all being active. The winning entry has then been printed on that year’s t-shirt for the hundreds of participants to wear proudly. This year, the planning committee has chosen to commemorate the contest winners from all nine years in a collage for the design of their t-shirt in lieu of the annual t-shirt contest.
Following the walk and run, families are invited to stay for an interactive health fair, local entertainment, and prize drawings. Several booths offer food tastings with healthy recipes families can make at home, hands-on demonstrations of family games to promote movement at home, and information about valuable community resources.
Throughout the afternoon, a variety of dance troupes and fitness groups provide entertainment on the mound, central to the health fair. Not only is it fun to watch the performances, but many of the performers encourage the kids to participate. Watching the joy on their faces as they dance along, learning without realizing it that exercise IS fun, is one of the highlights for the event coordinators.
Last year, since the event fell on Mother’s Day weekend, each woman received a flower as she crossed the finish line with her family. This year, the GHC committee is planning something new and special in celebration of their 10th anniversary.
And, of course, one of the highlights is the prize drawing that takes place after the run. Each year, GHC receives generous prizes from the community to give away at the event. Each prize underscores the program’s overall goal to promote daily health and physical activity. The grand prizes each year are four new children’s bicycles, donated at cost by Pullins Cyclery. Each child who wins a bike is also given a helmet.
“When he won the bike two years ago, he didn’t know how to ride a bike,” said the mother of a past winner. “He learned and now he rides his bike every day to the basketball court. He also taught his little sister how to ride!”
Stories like that are part of what inspires the event’s planning committee to bring back the event year after year. Over the past 10 years, representatives from a number of local nonprofit organizations and agencies have given their time to plan and host the event, ensuring it’s continued success. Each shares a strong commitment to our community’s health and sees GHC as a way to promote their mission of healthy living with all members of local families, creating sustainable healthy lifestyle changes.
Members of the 2016 planning committee include: Ampla Health, Enloe Medical Center, U.C. Cooperative Extension, and Women’s Health Specialist. Past planning members include Network for a Healthy California, Butte County WIC, and Center for Healthy Communities (formally Center for Nutrition and Activity Promotion).