A Health Champion On and Off the Field

By Sarah Fedele

Kaitlyn East of Clemmons is only 12 years old, but she is an inspiration! On October 17th, she was called onto the stage of the American Heart Association’s Tanglewood Heart & Stroke Walk at Tanglewood Park to receive her award as the 2015 Kids’ Lifestyle Change Award Winner.

When she was in kindergarten, Kaitlyn began participating with the Jerry Long YMCA’s after-school program. At six years old, she also started playing soccer at the YMCA. With two older brothers, Dallas and Dalton, who also played soccer, she has always been quite active. Now, she is a 7th-grader at Clemmons Middle School and is excited to try out for the school soccer team this spring. “I’m really looking forward to soccer this year, with it being co-ed teams,” shares Kaitlyn. “I’m used to playing with my brothers and we get pretty aggressive. It will be fun to be able to bring that competitiveness to the field.” She plays any position that her coach asks her to, but she admits that offense is her favorite. “I love to actually be able to score a goal,” she says.

Kaitlyn has not only made points in soccer, but she has made points in life. She has taken part in the YMCA’s Fitness Club, with physical and nutritional components. She also walks with her grandmother every afternoon. Kaitlyn’s self-esteem and confidence has increased as she has gotten healthier. She values her health and encourages other young kids to get moving and get healthy.

Kaitlyn loves to cook, with one of her favorite meals being broccoli casserole, which her mom, Kristin, taught her to cook. Bananas and green beans are some more of her favorites to snack on after school. She also always has a water bottle with her.

When Kristin, Kaitlyn’s mom, began focusing on exercising more and eating healthy, the whole family started focusing on their health even more. Being a good role model is just one more way families get healthy together.

“I want to encourage other kids to exercise and eat healthy,” says Kaitlyn. “You have a higher metabolism when you are younger, and it slows down as you get older. If kids can be healthy now and have healthy habits as we grow, there is less chance of heart disease as we get older.”

Today about 1 in 3 children in the United States is already overweight or obese. Some experts believe our current generation of children could become the first in American history to have shorter life spans than their parents, due to decreased physical activity and poor nutritional choices. Helping children fight childhood obesity is not just about helping them lose weight or get in better physical shape; it is also about improving their self-esteem, rewarding positive changes and celebrating those children in Greater Forsyth County that are establishing heart-healthy habits for life.

More than 4,500 people participated in the American Heart Association’s Tanglewood Heart & Stroke Walk, locally sponsored by Wake Forest Baptist Health, raising $450,000 for heart disease and stroke research, and prevention education in our community. To learn more heart-healthy tips for your family, visit www.heart.org.

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