Lynn Oliger is helping kids get a healthier start

Lynn Oliger blows a whistle and stands his ground as a horde of children run past him throwing, catching and chasing bean bags. Each week he visits the Boys and Girls Club in Carson California with three or four other volunteers to play high-energy games and teach the kids about eating healthy food.

It's all part of CATCH Healthy Habits, an OASIS intergenerational program to fight obesity and get kids off to a healthier start. The program is sponsored in California by Anthem Blue Cross Foundation.  Nationally, the WellPoint Foundation has made a grant to expand CATCH Healthy Habits in 14 states.

It’s especially important to Lynn to be there for the boys in the program. “We have young men who are not eating the right things and they need male role models to show them its good to eat well. Too many adults are getting hip or knee replacements or diseases like cancer. Health is the cornerstone of life. If you don’t have health, you don’t have life. We need to make our good health our hobby before our poor health makes us its hobby.”

“I try to lead by example. Children learn more from watching what people do than listening to what they say. They see that I can run around with them and play games. I model for them someone who cares about healthy habits, not a couch potato.”

Lynn knows well the personal cost of obesity. He struggled for years with weight gain, crippling osteoarthritis and hypertension. By age 64 he weighed 323 pounds and was bedridden. He credits a spiritual awakening with giving him the strength to change his lifestyle and his diet, start exercising regularly and get back on his feet. He lost 40 pounds in a year, had successful hip replacement surgery and has continued his commitment to take better care of himself, losing a total of 120 pounds over 6 years.  Now age 71, Lynn says “I look forward to another 20 years of worthwhile life experiences in good health.”

“I started to reinvent myself and took several classes through the Lakewood OASIS center,” Lynn says. When the CATCH Healthy Habits program started up this summer, he wanted to be part of it. “You need a purpose, a reason to get up and do something worthwhile, even significant to those you help along the walk of life.”

“This has been wonderful for me,” Lynn says, “The first time we gathered kids out there to form up for a game, a little hand reached up and took my hand and held it. This little boy had adopted me as his friend because I was out there with him, helping him, and we were having fun together. And I was blown away by it."

"We’re all here to help one another. It's not ‘me-me-me,’ it's ‘us-us-us.’ Our nation needs more programs like this. Our healthcare situation is in chaos and the only solution is for us to take care of our health and start teaching our children when they’re very young."


Doris Felix gets a whole lot back from CATCH Healthy Habits

For most people who volunteer, it doesn’t take long to realize that you get back much more than you give. No one knows that better than CATCH Healthy Habits volunteer Doris Felix.
While Doris is new to the program, she’s no stranger to giving her time. “I’ve been volunteering for years because I like it,” she says. “I didn’t know what to expect with OASIS but I have enjoyed this from the beginning.”
Doris was a kinesiology major in college, so health and fitness is really important to her. As a CATCH volunteer, she discovered that she really enjoys teaching the lesson. “I have a loud voice and they respond to me,” she jokes.   
The time Doris spends with her CATCH Healthy Habits kids is fulfilling, she says. “The kids are so cute. When we did Lesson 2, they remembered everything we told them from Lesson 1.”
By volunteering with the program, Doris knows she’s contributing to help conquer a national public health issue. “It’s so important, now that obesity is on the rise. There is so much these young children can learn from us if we have the opportunity to teach them.”
Through her time spent at CATCH Healthy Habits sessions in Long Beach, CA, Doris feels she’s giving something to the kids that they can take with them. “Eating healthy is easy and good for them and they have something to take home to their parents,” she says.
Indeed, the kids are learning and remembering, especially about “Whoa, Slow and Go” foods. WHOA foods are those that contain a lot of salt, unhealthy fats, or added sugars—sometimes all three.  GO foods contain very little salt, unhealthy fats, or added sugars—sometimes none at all.  SLOW foods are in between GO foods and WHOA foods and may include items like 2% plain milk, white bread and rice, and pancakes.
The lesson for Whoa, Slow and Go foods includes identifying foods by those categories. Doris asks, “Is broccoli a ‘whoa’ food or a ‘go’ food?”  The kids all shout back, “Go food!”  And who ate ‘go’ foods?” Doris asks. A student pipes up with, “I ate apples and yogurt.”
“They are like little sponges,” she says with a smile.