SPRINGFIELD, MASS. –Fallon Community Health Plan presented a check for $25,000 to early education and care provider Square One that will fund the LAUNCH Healthy Living and Character Fitness program. LAUNCH focuses on low-income school-age children from Kindergarten to grade 5 in Square One’s after-school and summer enrichment programs at two program sites in Springfield.
The presentation took place Monday December 22, 11:15 a.m. at the Square One Children’s Center, 255 King Street in Springfield. In addition to young children, there were community leaders, political leaders and parents in attendance.
“The overall goal of the LAUNCH program is to help start young children on a path toward healthy living by engaging the children in fitness, nutrition education, and other activities to increase their knowledge of healthy living habits, and to help engage their parents/caregivers as well,” according to Kimberley Lee, Vice President of Advancement for Square One. “The lessons learned can lead to a lifetime of healthier living.”
The LAUNCH program is free for the participants, thanks in large measure to the generous contributions of businesses including Fallon Community Health Plan. The Fallon grant will provide approximately 312 LAUNCH sessions at two program sites during the program year, which extends through August 31, 2015. At each session, staff members work with the children to help motivate them towards healthy lifestyle choices.
“Square One designed the LAUNCH curriculum to help children to build a fit and balanced lifestyle,” according to Kimberley A. Lee, VP Advancement for Square One. “The program curriculum, which has become a model for similar programs nationwide, combines physical activity, group activities and discussions surrounding character strengths such as kindness, trust, responsibility and honesty. The comprehensive approach to character fitness aims to provide children with the building blocks for personal growth and awareness of the importance of exercise and long-term health. The lesson plans are based on the Massachusetts Curriculum Standards, reinforcing messages the children receive during school.”
Square One has a strategic focus to provide more robust programming for what the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (DEEC) has determined are “Priority Populations”: children involved with the Department of Children and Families (DCF) for issues of child abuse and/or neglect, the homeless, and children of teen parents.
“The children, who are victims of homelessness, abuse, and/or neglect, have experienced challenges and stresses we can only imagine,” Lee explains. “They often have issues, including symptoms of toxic stress that, for example, can cause them to act out in inappropriate and disruptive ways. To more effectively serve them, funding from Fallon Community Health Plan will help to provide new program elements that incorporate music, movement, literacy activities and symbolic play to build resiliency in children. These activities will include instruction and activities to help foster the building of self-awareness, relational skills, self-calming strategies and self-regulation.”
Lee stresses that the funding from Fallon Community Health Plan will also enable Square One to expand the nutrition education aspects of LAUNCH. “We will provide four family meals during the program period,” she explains. “Many of the disadvantaged children and families we serve, especially the homeless, do not have the opportunity for family meals. These events will not only give the families an enjoyable experience through which to bond, but they will serve as a fun launching point to discuss and explore examples of healthy nutrition, including having the children help cook.”
Nutrition education programming also includes taking the children on a field trip to a working farm during the growing season in 2015. For the inner-city children, this will be a chance to enjoy an experience they might not otherwise have while engaging in discussions about healthy nutrition.
In addition to the check presentation, Fallon Community Health Plan executives were able to see some of the toys that were purchased with a $2,500 gift previously made by the organization to Square One.