Though now a retired physical education teacher, Evelyn Gillespie demonstrates weekly just how much she contributes to children.
As a volunteer in the CATCH Healthy Habits program in St. Louis, Evelyn’s skills from her teaching days are handy when it comes to reining in 20 very excited and active kids. CATCH brings children and adults age 50+ together to learn good eating and physical activity habits for a lifetime.
From the time Evelyn blows that first whistle to gather them up for the first part of the program, the physical activity, to the final whistle that herds her young charges into a tidy line that marches out of the gym and into the kitchen for a healthy snack, Evelyn makes the 30 minutes she has with the kids count.
“I love being active,” she says. “It benefits me. It helps me mentally. And I get a joy out of seeing the kids be active.”
And active they are. Games in the CATCH Healthy Habits program are simple, easy to explain quickly and keep the kids’ attention. But even more importantly, those games get them moving, running, exercising. Kids see how fun it is and look forward to more. And Evelyn is ready to give them more each week, building interest and excitement about getting active.
Evelyn isn’t a first-timer to CATCH Healthy Habits. She was involved in the original pilot called Active Generations in 2009, and enjoyed it so much that she came back for the new program.
“I look forward to this because I’m reaching children,” she says. And being a volunteer in the program means that she benefits too. “We need more activity in our lives no matter how old we are.”
Evelyn leads the way for the activity part of CATCH, and then she joins the children for the second part of the lesson … making and enjoying a healthy snack. Participants are delighted with the snacks, such as “Ants on a Log” -- celery sticks filled with low-fat cream cheese and raisins on top, and are sometimes surprised by how much they like them. “Some of the children had never tried yogurt,” Evelyn said.
The hours each week at the local Boys & Girls Club is time well spent for Evelyn. “Children learn better when they’re young,” she says, “and I’m giving back my experience.”