More students eating right

In Lycoming County today, more youngsters are taking the challenge to end childhood obesity to heart and their plates.

They are choosing to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables in their daily diets, and exercising – even getting their parents off the couch and into the fun of fitness.

On Monday night at the Lycoming County Fitness Challenge awards ceremony and celebration at McCall Middle School in Montoursville, students in nine participating school districts gave each other high-fives for their accomplishments in the seventh such annual six-week challenge.

“We broke all records. This is phenomenal,” said Mike Cillo, program chairman. Sharing inspirational words of wisdom with the students, Capt. Brady Cillo, of the Air Force Reserves Officers Training Corps in Pittsburgh, son of the program chairman, encouraged the students to never quit and always seek to serve each other.

Having grit or perserverance and choosing to serve humanity were two traits as important – perhaps, at times, more so than intellect and skill sets, said Cillo, who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and is a father of a 10-month-old daughter.

Albert Einstein once told an interviewer, “I’m not so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer,” Cillo said.

Olympic multi-gold medalist swimmer Michael Phelps said the secret to his success was he stayed in the pool longer than anyone else, Cillo said.

“Character counts,” he said. “I challenge you to always think about where you want to be.”

Cillo also asked the students to think about service to humanity. “It’s not always easy, but it’s rewarding,” said Cillo, who recently returned from visiting an orphanage in earthquake-shattered Haiti where most of the population lives on less than $2 per day.

Stopping for a second to compose himself, Cillo spoke about the impact the visit to the Peace and Joy orphanage had on him.

The operators, he said, were grateful the visitors arrived when they did with food supplies because their food supply was diminished and would run out by the end of the week.

“Don’t let anyone tell you you’re too young to make a difference,” he said.

That’s what state Rep. Rick Mirabito, D-Williamsport, also echoed.

“This challenge had just under 8,000 kids,” Mirabito said, challenging the students to think about next year’s goal. “Just think if you get a friend to participate next year.”

Charley Hall, district administrator for state Rep. Garth Everett, R-Muncy, said, “Fitness is important not only when you’re young but also when you’re old.”

Hall also challenged the students to continue on a path toward better health and to fight obesity.

Program Director Kathie Sinibaldi, whose son Peter took part, said she realized how hard it was for each and every participant.

The program, she said, takes about $30,000 to run and doesn’t have a budget, depending on volunteers and sponsors. In 2006, the challenge was started by the Lycoming County Health Improvement Coalition’s Wellness Council.

To date, nearly 19 million minutes of health living and activity have been logged and more than 387,103 servings of fruits and vegetables have been consumed, all while the importance of these nutrient-rich foods continue to be discussed among the teachers and administrators in the school districts.