Building Confidence and Trying New Activities
For 8-year-old Corbin, his first day of summer camp at the Arthur M. Blank Family Youth YMCA was off to a rocky start.
"He cried because kids picked on him and called him fat," says his mother, Latisha.
She had pinned her hopes on the summer camp, which is funded by the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation’s childhood obesity initiative. Through the Falcons Fitness Zone initiative, which targets high-need neighborhoods in Atlanta and Gainesville, AFYF is helping Corbin and more than 10,000 other kids take up all kinds of physical activity – everything from mountain biking to dance to swimming.
For Latisha, she was running out ways to motivate Corbin, to help him feel good about himself. With nowhere else to turn, she asked camp counselors for help.
The first few days were not encouraging.
"He complained about having to walk to the swimming pool," says Latisha, "saying walking should be outlawed!"
Corbin started the summer weighing in at 140 pounds.
As the YMCA staff embraced Corbin, he started trying new physical activities.
The transformation began when the YMCA staff got Corbin engaged in a week-long football camp. Along with the drills came a souvenir T-shirt and posters.
As Corbin’s trust grew, he took to heart the lessons about physical activity and healthy eating.
By the end of the summer, in just a few weeks, Corbin had changed his eating habits and lost 20 pounds.
"I was impressed," Latisha says. "He stopped complaining about the kids. He stopped complaining about the walking."
While football was a highlight – Corbin loves football – his mom credits the entire camp experience for instilling in her son a confidence he never had before.
"My son never played tennis," Latisha says. "Now he loves tennis. He was afraid to go to Six Flags, crying, ‘I’m gonna die.’ Everything was, ‘I’m gonna die.’ The counselors told him it would be fine and to try it. He had the most fun in his life with them."
Latisha especially appreciated the male role models at the camp, as Corbin is an only child with no father at home.
"Having a man tell a boy, ‘You could do this,’ really made a big difference. I don’t know what power they had on my son, but if they said tomorrow the sun will be purple, he’d believe it."
Kids still tease, of course, as some things about childhood never change. In fact, it is Corbin who has changed. Thanks to his immersion in the YMCA camp and regular physical activity, his health is better. He feels better. And he has a new view of himself. What the other kids say just doesn’t matter anymore.
Latisha says, "He'll tell me at home, 'Kids called me fat, but it doesn't bother me because I feel good about myself."
His mom believes him – not because of what he says, but because of what he is doing.
Now, for the first time, Corbin can stand up in front of his church congregation and sing.