And fitness can change a person's life.
Those are the two goals Al Yenkevich is trying to achieve with the new nonprofit group Make a Change.
One day a month, Yenkevich wants kids and their parents to come to his fun-filled Make a Change fitness class and begin to make a change in their lives.
"It is my passion to help these kids and lead them in the right direction with my team," Yenkevich said.
"With schools cutting back more and more on activities and recess, it is time we stand up and make a difference in our communities one step at a time," Yenkevich said. "With obesity on the rise, these kids need help and my team will start making a difference."
During the first Make a Change class in April, Yenkevich, a "boot camp" instructor and personal trainer, used basketballs, jump ropes, hula hoops and an agility course to get kids on the path to fitness.
It worked. At least as far as Luke Dillon was concerned.
Luke, 8, went to the first class and liked it so much that he and his parents are going to the second class May 12.
"He really liked the variety and he loves to do push ups and the planks," said Luke's mother, Jean Dillon. "And it was good for him to do jump rope and hula hoops … some new things that he might not normally do out at recess."
Dillon is a fourth-grade teacher at Challenger Elementary in Everett and wishes she could get all the children there exercising on a routine basis.
"Really, honestly, some of my students need it because they still so love P.E., and they need to get out there and exercise, but they might not have the opportunity," Dillon said.
Dillon said exercising is a lifestyle for her and her husband. Both have worked out at Yenkevich's adult boot camp classes, and Luke has watched their dedication.
Yenkevich said a key to a kid's fitness level will be reaching the parents.
"My vision here is adults will read this article, and it hits home for the adult who says, 'I'm guilty of not doing what I'm supposed to be doing for my kids. I need to make some changes. I can call Al,' " Yenkevich said.
The Make a Change fitness class applies to all levels of fitness and can be done by kids ages 7 to 15.
In his first class, Yenkevich had about 40 kids, whom he split up into age groups.
There were four workout stations: basketball hoops, fitness on mats, hula hoops and jump ropes, and an agility course. Yenkevich and his team led the groups, which rotated every 10 minutes and worked out to music.
At the end of the hourlong session, Yenkevich talked about nutrition.
Yenkevich said parents have to fight against the fast-food mentality.
"We're at a point in life where we are always saying here is a fast food choice out of the freezer or a drive-through, so we've got to start making changes," he said.
Not just for the kids, but parents as well.
"In my camps I tell the people your health is your investment in your life," Yenkevich said.
Yenkevich gave kids and parents some nutritional homework. For the parents, he asked them to make a list of 10 ways to eat more fruits and vegetables.
The kids were to list five favorite fruits and veggies and turn that in to their parents and go grocery shopping with them.
"There's no sense shoving broccoli down their throats. There are lots of choices so make it fun and rewarding," Yenkevich said.
Luke's mom, Jean Dillon, said one of her family's goals is to eat healthier. Luke did try something new after the class: cottage cheese.
Yenkevich said his goal is to reach out to other communities and have classes twice or more throughout a month and year-round, and when the weather gets nice, hold some outside.
"Obesity is just getting worse," Yenkevich said. "If we keep this trend, our children will not outlive the age we live."
Make a Change
The second Make a Change fitness class is 10 a.m. May 12 at Beautiful Savior Hall, 12810 35th Ave. SE, Everett. The class is free; donations will be accepted.
Yenkevich runs adult boot camps through Total Sweat Fitness. He is a certified personal trainer with more than 15 years of experience in the field. For more information, call 425-330-3398 or go to www.totalsweatfitness.com.
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