Bowie nonprofit works to keep youth healthy, active
Church plays host to health fair that addresses childhood obesity
In the childhood obesity battle, fitness instructor Gary Siegel is in the trenches.
"We're seeing teens who weigh more than 300 pounds and have diabetes already," said Siegel, who owns the Fitness Matters Gym in Bowie and Crofton.
Siegel was one of several vendors who attended a May 22 health fair that aimed to raise awareness of childhood obesity.
Music, moon bounces and face painting brought a sense of fun to a serious topic and drew area families to the event site in the parking lot of the New Life Community Church on Old Annapolis Road in Bowie.
Instead of typical carnival food, participants enjoyed healthy snacks such as applesauce, fruit cups and veggie burgers.
Nicole and Robert Howze, founders of the nonprofit Worldwide Community, organized the event. County Councilwoman Ingrid Turner (D-Dist. 4) served as sponsor.
Robert Howze launched the organization by offering track and field, flag football and other sports activities for youth.
"I've been involved in sports my whole life," said Howze, a Bowie resident and Siegel's son-in-law. "The more I got involved in sports, the less I got into trouble."
The organization, which became a nonprofit in 2006, attracts about 300 youth throughout the year, he said.
Howze's involvement with youth and fitness sparked his interest in childhood obesity. First lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign offered further inspiration. He noted that kids spend too much time indoors watching TV and playing video games. Plus, some parents keep their children inside due to concerns about neighborhood safety.
Busy lifestyles often cause unhealthy choices.
"We're a fast-food nation, and the minivan is the dinner table," said Howze, who also serves as youth pastor. He plans to kick off a competition modeled after the television show "The Biggest Loser" for kids during the summer.
Terry Eggleston, assistant pastor of New Life, said the health fair is just one way the church wants to assist local families. The congregation, which is about a year old, also offers a Christian academy, an upcoming summer camp and basketball for teens.
"We want to reach kids and keep them active and out of trouble," said Eggleston, who lives in Laurel.
Nicole Howze, who works for the church's afterschool program, said healthier snacks would promote better eating. Some parents, she said, pack too much food or items that are full of empty calories. Better choices include organic granola bars or fruits and vegetables with organic dressing as a dipping sauce, she said.
After giving birth to two children, Nicole Howze says weight remains a challenge for her as well. But her mom has diabetes and high blood pressure, and her 7-year-old son loves to eat. That means Howze must remain vigilant about her family's dietary choices.
"So many things result from poor eating," she said. "That's why this issue is my passion."
How it makes a difference: This nonprofit provides positive athletic and educational activities for youth. For information, go to www.hisworldwidecommunity.org or call 240-461-8474.