"Look, up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's..."
Healthy Kidz Camp, hosted by ProCare Health and Fitness, unmasked its superhero theme last Monday to a group of 25 children ranging from ages 2 through 8.
"We try to take [what we do] to a different level," Phyllis Baker, Altoona Health Facility manager for ProCare, said. "We're a health club that feels the need to reach out and do something for the community."
Mirror photos by J.D. Cavrich
At ProCare Kidz Camp, Lauren Stacy, 5, climbs a hillside using a rope.
The camp has used several different themes in years past, all of which are tied into the idea of healthy living. Past themes have included: camping out, the jungle, the beach, pirates, Mexican fiesta and Hawaiian luau.
The children kicked off their morning Tuesday by creating superhero capes in one of ProCare's exercise rooms, which had been dubbed "The Bat Cave." Each day, a guest speaker talked to the children about his or her career and what it means to be a hero.
Guests included a World War II veteran, an emergency room trauma nurse, a police officer and the head coach for St. Francis University's women's basketball team.
"What we're doing is showing the children that not only can you be a superhero, you can be a real-life hero," Baker said.
On Tuesday, Altoona Hospital registered nurse Lisa Stroup talked to the children and brought a stethoscope, cervical spine collar and neck brace. She showed the children how to cast a broken arm or leg and said helping people is what she considers to be most important in life.
"I think a hero is anyone who wants to help people," Stroup said. "You're a role model for children."
Judah Fulchiero, 6, of Duncansville is a returning camper and said he's been learning about what it means to be a superhero.
"I learned that superheroes are sometimes fantasy and sometimes real," Fulchiero said, referring to his favorite guest speaker, the WWII veteran.
Children are invited to play basketball, volleyball and tennis and to try their hand at mountain climbing and yoga.
But Baker says it's more than an athletics camp.
"We want to teach them proper skills and healthy nutrition," she said. "We're teaching them life lessons, and we want them to express themselves."
The camp introduced an ice cream sundae bar to children on Wednesday. The bar highlighted healthy alternatives like fruit, soy and yogurt. Baker said they want children to learn how to make healthy decisions with unhealthy snacks.
"People are going to think 'You're having ice cream at a health camp?'" she said. "But instead of chocolate toppings, they can have strawberries. Instead of syrup, they can have natural juices from blueberries."
Six counselors, four of whom are schoolteachers, have the responsibility of integrating learning into the children's activities.
"ProCare is doing a great job educating children about healthy living habits so they can live longer lives," Stroup said.
Seven- and eight-year-old campers are given the title of junior counselor, a position that Baker says will teach them about responsibility.
Madison McLanahan of Hollidaysburg is a junior counselor and said she's had fun acting as a role model for the younger children.
"I love meeting new people and making new friends," Madison, 8, said.
Each year, the children are taught a different song that ties into the camp's theme. This year, they learned the words to "America the Beautiful," which they performed for parents Friday. A slideshow was shown which summarized the children's weeklong activities.
"We love these kids," Baker said. "At the end, they're crying and we're crying because we don't want to see them leave."
Parents must pre-register their children for the camp. The next camp is in the summer of 2012. Registration is $90 for ProCare members and $100 for non-members. For more information, call 944-9412.