Healthy Kids Day draws small but enthusiastic crowd

From left, Griffin Lawson completes a crossing on the Y playground’s horizontal ladder as Kaelynn Chafin begins to climb.

Only half the number of youngsters who attended last year’s Healthy Kids Day observance at Atmore Area YMCA was on hand this year, but those who did show up seemed to have twice the fun.

“We’ve been having fun all morning, really enjoying ourselves,” said Sonya Hollinger, who chaperoned young Jayden Sims, barely big enough to sit in a chair by himself.

The skimpy attendance numbers (less than 70 children) meant shorter lines for the inflatable slide, more room at the arts and crafts tables inside, no waiting for those who wanted to be fingerprinted by Samantha Bennett of the Atmore Police Department and extended time for those who wanted to be photographed with Tillie the Turtle and McGruff the Crime Dog.

“While our turnout was less than last year, I believe everyone had a good time,” said Paul Chason, the local Y’s CEO. “Everyone enjoyed the bouncy slide and the thrill of making the descent. It was even more challenging and scary than normal, with the turbulent winds experienced during the morning.”

Early indications were that this year’s participation numbers might be up, as 17 people took part in the 5K walk, run and bike event that served as a kickoff for the day’s activities. The group, escorted by city police, made it safely to and from Tom Byrne Park.

The throng who stayed away included a group of A.C. Moore students who were scheduled to open the event by dancing to the YMCA song. But another group of youngsters from the school, members of Golden Dragons Tae Kwan Do class, drew quite a bit of attention as they demonstrated their special moves and broke boards with their hands and feet.

“The highlight of the day was watching the five A.C. Moore students demonstrate what they have learned this year in the Tae Kwan Do classes as part of the after-school program,” said Chason.

As the clouds parted to let in some sun, the cooler filled with icy bottles of water and the Sno-Cone machine grew in popularity.

“With the hot, muggy weather, the water provided by Pepsi was an important contribution; I certainly enjoyed it,” Chason said. “As the temperatures climbed, the Sno-Cone machine provided by Concerned Citizens of Atmore also got a lot of attention.”

Ironically, while young attendees at Healthy Kids Day were few and far between, nearly 150 children ranging in age from 5-12 years got plenty of exercise as they competed on the Y’s soccer fields, just a few yards from the site of the day’s main event.

Those who manned the informational booths set up by Atmore Community Hospital, Sav-A-Life, Cub Scouts Troop 275 and Escambia County Regional Child Advocacy Center found themselves with plenty of time on their hands.

Chason said he was disappointed in the turnout, but pleased that those who did come enjoyed themselves. He cited several factors – including the deaths of two locals in a car crash the night before and the shooting death of a 20-year-old man just three days prior to the event – as having an impact on the low participation numbers.

“The weather, with the wind and overcast sky, probably had something to do with it,” he said. “There was also the mood set by the community tragedy, the accident and the shooting. We’ll have to look at a lot of things before we start planning next year’s Healthy Kids Day.”

One-year-old Brenlee Mallory poses for a picture with Tillie the Turtle.
Sonya Hollinger, at left, watches as young Jayden Sims tries to make up his mind about McGruff the Crime Dog.
At right, A.C. Moore student Robert Smith has his fingerprints recorded by Samantha Bennett of the Atmore Police Department.