When Taylor Covert finished eighth grade, he weighed 220 pounds. Two years later, the 16-year-old Cascade High School sophomore weighs 170 pounds — shedding 50 pounds by being active. He swims, plays soccer and joined his high school football team and says he may try out for the cross-country team.
What a difference a little incentive can make in convincing kids to be more physically active and make healthy eating choices.
The groundwork for his transformation, his mother Rhonda Covert said, was laid in 2004, when her son participated in the first year of the Get Movin’ program.
Now in its fifth year, the free summer program offered throughout Snohomish County begins Saturday and awards prizes for kids who are active for 30 minutes five times a week.
“Those incentives really helped motivate him,” Covert said, “those little things to help keep him going.”
Her son learned the benefits that healthy eating and being active can provide, she said. Get Movin’ was “a fun way to understand that stuff.”
He started putting the knowledge into action in his freshman year, making changes on his own.
“We look at his picture before starting his freshman year of high school until now and it’s like ‘Wow, amazing,’ ” she said. “Watching him has been an inspiration for me.”
Since 2004, about 4,800 kids and their parents have participated in the program.
This year’s program begins on Saturday with activities, exhibitors and prizes offered at events planned in Everett, Monroe, Lynnwood and Marysville.
The goal is to have 2,600 kids and their families participate — 1,000 more than last year, said Tammy Rankins, a coordinator in the Edmonds recreation department, who helped plan this year’s program.
Weekly prizes for meeting the goal of being active for 30 minutes five times a week include free passes to use the climbing wall at the Alderwood REI store, to swim at pools in Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace, Edmonds, Everett and Marysville, for skating and bowling and admission to Everett AquaSox games and the Evergreen State Fair.
Taylor said that he feels better and has more endurance since he’s lost weight and is in better shape.
“I eat better,” he said. “I don’t eat as much junk food as I used to. I’m happy I’m able to do stuff I didn’t think I’d ever be able to do.”
Get Movin’ is intended to help kids take on physical activity as a routine part of their lives, said Dr. Gary Goldbaum, health officer for the Snohomish Health District.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that rates of childhood obesity have begun to level off, he said.
“We’re not seeing the increases of the past decade,” Goldbaum said. “However, the bad news is we’re not seeing a reduction, either.”
Overweight and obese children often have significant health problems as they grow up, he said. “The way we’re going to reverse that trend is to get kids much more active and making healthy nutritional choices.”
The Get Movin’ program received a $10,000 grant this year from the Washington Health Foundation to help expand the program to east Snohomish County, said Caroline Brown, health and fitness director of the Marysville YMCA and a member of the Get Movin’ committee since 2004.
Other sponsors include Everett Transit, Community Transit, the Snohomish Health District, The Herald, the Northwest Educational Service District 189, the American Heart Association, The Everett Clinic, REI, Enterprise Newspapers, the city of Edmonds and Providence General Children’s Association.
Get Movin’ has done more than help kids and families increase their physical activity, Brown said. With the program’s emphasis on healthy eating, some groceries stores are now posting recipes for healthy meals.
Stories such as Taylor’s help underscore what the program can mean to kids, Brown said.
“The exciting part for me is he has had success,” she said. “He will build on that for the rest of his life.”
Reporter Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or firstname.lastname@example.org