CHILDHOOD OBESITY: YMCA, Mayo Clinic team up, create camp - My29 WFTC Minneapolis-St. Paul

CHILDHOOD OBESITY: YMCA, Mayo Clinic team up, create camp

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Childhood obesity is a growing problem, but the Mayo Clinic and YMCA are teaming up to help kids shed pounds and change lifestyles in a unique way in an effort to reverse the trend.

While Camp Wabi, located just north of Eau Claire, Wis., may look like a typical camp with the usual activities, it has a specific focus -- helping children who struggle with their weight learn a new way of living.

When it comes to kids, being active is a huge part of being fit, but campers who are considered obese aren't asked to do anything crazy at Camp Wabi. Instead, they're simply encouraged to be kids, and that's a lot easier to do in the company of others who share similar struggles.

"At school, you feel more left out of things because there might be kids smaller than you, but here, a lot of people are the same as you," said Jessica Frase. "You can make friends easier. You don't have to worry about them judging."

For 30 minutes a day, exercise is required -- but Zumba keeps it from being a chore. Another hour of the day is spent on education focusing on nutrition and behavioral issues that can cause weight gain.

"The main reason I came here is because in my future, I want to be a WE superstar," Ben Heller told FOX 9 News. "For me to do that, I need to have a healthier lifestyle, and I thought coming here would give me a better chance of doing that."

At 13 years old, Heller said the camp has helped him accomplish his goals. In fact, he's even asking for extra exercise.

When it comes to the food, there are three meals and two healthy snacks a day for a total of 1,800 calories.

"When I first came here, I said, 'Oh jeez, they are going to starve us and stuff,'" Frase admitted. "But when I got here, they gave us really filling food and stuff that tastes really good."

The camp started in 2011, and the 12-day program focuses on adopting healthy habits -- not counting on how much weight can be lost in two weeks.

"It helps you change your lifestyle at home," Frase said. "It helps you change your family's life style at home into getting active and getting healthier."

The campers acknowledged they needed to make a change, and now, they have advice for other kids who are struggling.

"Have a good reason to be motivated," Heller said. "If you don't have one, find one."

When the kids leave camp, the work is not over. There are follow-up visits after 3 and 6 months. Camp leaders say half of the children who attend continue to lose weight. Improving the physical condition isn't the only success either, because most of the kids who arrive depressed leave with a positive way of thinking.

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