Aetna Foundation Awards $25,000 Grant to Northern Middlesex YMCA

Led by Y staff, the CATCH Recess program teaches noncompetitive games to elementary school students during recess at seven of the city’s eight elementary schools. Participating schools are Bielefield, Farm Hill, Macdonough, Moody, Snow, Spencer and Wesley. The program engages children in active play for 25 minutes each recess period, leading to improved cardio-health, fitter bodies, stronger social skills and more personal confidence.

“Thanks to the support from the Aetna Foundation, we have been able to expand this important health and wellness program from five elementary schools in Middletown last year to seven schools this year. We now reach more than 1,000 young people in our community,” said Michele Rulnick, vice president of the Northern Middlesex YMCA. “The CATCH Recess program is a great way to engage kids who may feel left out of traditional playground sports and may be at risk of poorer health from a sedentary lifestyle.”

Originally developed in the early 1990’s at the University of Texas, the CATCH (Coordinated Approach to Child Health) program is currently being used in 8,500 schools and after-school programs around the country. The Northern Middlesex YMCA introduced the program in 2007 as part of the curriculum at its before- and after-school programs. Four years ago, the Y launched the program at recess at four Middletown elementary schools.

Encouraging active and healthy lifestyles is a significant part of the Aetna Foundation’s mission to promote health and wellness.

“We know that regular physical activity can help young people maintain a healthy weight and reduce their risk of diabetes, heart disease and other obesity-related illnesses when they are older,” said Sharon Dalton, vice president of the Aetna Foundation and director of regional grant making. “By offering a wide range of physical activities in a fun and inclusive way, the Y is teaching healthy habits that can lead to a lifetime of good health. We are pleased to be able to support the Y in this effort.”

Middletown school principals are enthusiastic about the constructive effect CATCH Recess is having on their students.

“CATCH Recess intentionally teaches children that being fit and active is fun and rewarding,” said Jim Gaudreau, principal of Snow School. “Children are actively engaged, they are learning new skills and setting goals for themselves and this has a positive impact on their behavior and wellness.”

Jon Romeo, principal at Macdonough School, said, “On CATCH days many more children are actively engaged in activities. This is most notable with children who are often sitting on the sidelines when CATCH is not available.”

Parents of students who have participated in CATCH Recess report that their children have higher fitness levels and an increased understanding of the connection between physical activity and good health. Students are rewarded with special t-shirts, ribbons and certificates.

The Aetna Foundation grant supports the CATCH Recess program throughout the 2012-2013 school year.