For kids who struggle with obesity issues, Camp Wabi can help

April 04, 2014

jessica frase with lots of volleyballsFor Jessica Frase, 14, of Eau Claire, “Camp Wabi is really, really, really fun.”

Mayo Clinic Health System and the YMCA of Eau Claire offer Camp Wabi on Long Lake, near New Auburn, Wis., as a way to address the growing childhood obesity problem. The 12-day camp is for kids ages 10 to 14.

Frase says swimming is her favorite camp activity. But other lessons Frase learned at camp — reading food labels, keeping a food journal and resisting second helpings — have stuck with the Fall Creek Middle School eighth-grader. “Just because a cereal says it’s healthy doesn’t mean it is,” she says.

At Camp Wabi (pronounced Wah-bee), an hour a day is set aside for lifestyle coaching by physicians, as well as specialists in nutrition, behavior therapy, psychology, pediatric medicine and exercise physiology. Kids also can choose canoeing, fishing, kayaking, arts and crafts, archery, basketball, cooking, dance and more.

Campers eat three healthy meals and two snacks a day for a total of 1,800 calories. At first, Frase worried she would “starve.” She was pleasantly surprised to find camp food tasty and filling, she says.

Camp Wabi is not a boot camp; rather, it emphasizes healthy lifestyle choices. “Follow a healthy lifestyle, and the weight will take care of itself,” says Mayo Clinic Health System pediatrician John Plewa, M.D., Camp Wabi medical director who lives at camp and hits the Zumba floor with the rest.

jessica frase and coachParental involvement is key to help children overcome weight issues, Plewa says. Before camp starts, parents learn to help their camper live a healthier lifestyle at home. After camp, parents receive materials to keep kids on course. Camp staff members are available throughout the year, and parents and campers track progress at two reunions.

Since attending camp, Frase says her family has supported her by keeping healthy snacks, such as fruit, in the house and encouraging activity, such as playing volleyball. “I’ve been a lot more active since camp, so it’s easier for me to participate in volleyball,” she says.

Frase, who attended the 2012 and 2013 camp sessions, appreciates Camp Wabi’s care for her whole person. “Camp helps you realize how much people weigh doesn’t have anything to do with how they act,” Frase says.

Not feeling judged based on size is important to kids, Frase says. “I could relate to everyone at camp.”

For others considering Camp Wabi, Frase is unabashed in her encouragement: “Do it. It’s the best thing. The counselors are so nice, and the activities are fun. It’s the funnest camp.”

Watch a video about Camp Wabi or register today:

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