With so much to do, there's no sitting still

Good health, good times at Fun 'n FITchburg Family Day

By Anna Burgess, aburgess@sentinelandenterprise.com

UPDATED:   08/13/2015 06:53:28 AM EDT

FITCHBURG -- Dozens of local children and their parents headed to Green Corners Park on Wednesday afternoon, ready to enjoy healthy foods and fun physical activities at the annual Fun 'n FITchburg Family Day in the Park.

The Family Day in the Park event began four years ago, and is funded every year by state wellness and leadership grant program Mass in Motion, which also funds local health program Fun 'n FITchburg. This year's event at Green Corners featured group games, kite-building and other arts and crafts, raffles, free healthy foods, and a farmer's market.

There was also a smoothie-making demonstration by Roots Natural Foods, a read-aloud with state Rep. Stephen DiNatale, and a talk on healthy sleep and nutritional habits by Fitchburg Police Officer Christopher Garcia.

According to MOC Wellness Coordinator Nancy Fillers, they saw about 25 parents and 100 children throughout the day. Seeing so many children at the park was encouraging, Fillers said, because the event is really for them.

"It's all about healthy eating and active living," Fillers said. "Mass in Motion started the funding so kids could get out into the parks, know where they are, what they are, and what you can do there."

Family Day partners included MOC, Fitchburg Community Connections, HealthAlliance Hospital, Fitchburg Farmer's Market Association, Sodexo, Fitchburg Public Schools, Fitchburg State University, ReImagine North of Main, Roots Natural Foods, and WIC nutritional programs.

WIC representative Claritza Soto, who was giving out healthy snacks at the park, said she was happy to see children learning about healthy foods.

"The kids, at first, were a little apprehensive about things like kale," she said. "But when they tried it, they liked it. So we're getting the knowledge out there that vegetables are not bad."

Soto said events like this one "definitely" help WIC further their goals of spreading nutritional education.

"It's a step to making our kids healthier and knowing what's going into their bodies," she said. "What you put in is what you get out of it, at least that's the way I see it."

Local parents Jessica and Joe Lauricella had brought their two daughters and six-month-old son to the park for the day. Their oldest daughter, Eve, was excited about potentially winning a raffle prize, but her mother Jessica said she appreciated the event as a whole.

"We're having fun," she said. "It's nice that they have something encouraging healthy activity. A lot of events in the area tend to be run by churches, and have a religious aspect. So it's nice to have something that's just focusing on health for kids."

Susan Buchholz, an organizer, said she was very pleased with event turnout, calling the crowd "incredible."

"It's just really great to see the number of families that came out here today," she said, "particularly people with small children, because that's really who we're looking to impact and raise awareness around healthy living, getting active, going out into the park. A lot of people have said how wonderful it is to get fresh fruits and vegetables and they really appreciate them."

Fillers said, after attending these events for several years now, her favorite part is witnessing local children have fun together.

"Seeing the kids from all over the neighborhood getting together, having fun together, eating the same food together," she said. "Just seeing the smiles."

Follow Anna Burgess on Twitter and Tout @AnnaBurgess18.

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