The LiveWell Longmont Blog

Feb 5, 2018

Winter Biking Wonderland: Tips for Making the Most of Cold Season Cycling

Brrrr…baby, it’s cold outside! At least, it can be. We certainly rang in the new year with some frosty, frigid temps, and day-to-day, you really never know, right? After all, it’s Colorado. We’re used to Mother Nature’s predictable unpredictability–it’s even part of the fun. But when it comes to cycling, cold weather can really put the brakes on momentum. That said, it doesn’t have to. Winter Biking can be wonderful! With Winter Bike to Work Day coming up February 9th, what better time to find out for yourself?

Of course, though days are getting longer again, it still gets dark and cold quickly. Roads may offer more than the usual hazards, depending on the weather and temps. And, bundling up can take some time and adjustment. Fortunately, with a little knowledge and preparation, winter biking can be awfully rewarding, and even rather comfortable. We’ve gathered a few tips for making the most of winter cycling.

Gear up. There are certain essentials you’ll need to brave the cold, whether or not the sun is shining. “Wind resistant cycling gloves are super important,” says BreakAway Cycle & Strength Studio Owner and Instructor Alison Zemanek. “It’s tough to hit the brakes when your fingers are frozen! Another key is shoe covers–those toes will get cold!” Zemanek further recommends investing in a winter cycling jersey and/or jacket and a face mask, adding, “Even though it’s winter, be sure to put sunscreen on that exposed face and lip balm to help protect your lips from the cold wind.” (See some of Zemanek’s personal pics for winter layers here.)

Dress in layers thoughtfully, being sure to keep your core warm. “While it’s important to dress warmly, it’s equally important not to overdress,” cautions Lauren Greenfield, Art in Public Places Administrator, Traffic Safety Coordinator and veteran cyclist who leads numerous bike groups in Longmont. “Overdressing will cause sweating, making your underlayer wet and could lead to hypothermia.” To help strike the just-right balance, Greenfield recommends wearing a moisture-wicking base layer.

Dress up your bike. You’re not the only one who may need some new outfitting in winter. Before venturing out, give your bike a good tuneup. Make sure your brakes are in good working order, and everything’s functioning as it should. Tires will provide more traction with a little less pressure than you’re used to for summer riding. If you’re anticipating slush or otherwise messy roads, mud guards are a good idea. Finally, lighting can make magic. Be sure to be prepared for darkness as needed with bright lights for front and back, and reflectors.

Safety first. “Be visible,” Greenfield advises. “Be prepared with bright lights and clothings, whether day, dusk or night. Always have a plan B in case weather moves in. Remember, we live in Colorado. Buses in Longmont are free, and they all have bicycle racks that are easy to use.”

Winter poses different hazards depending on conditions. Be vigilant for melted snow and icy patches. “If you encounter ice on a road or trail, keep pedaling,” Greenfield says. “It may sound counter-intuitive, but it could be the difference between staying upright or not.”. And watch out for those curbs–they are likely to be more dangerous with debris and ice. Drivers tend to give cyclists a wider berth with cluttered curb sides, but be sure to keep them in the know with proper hand signals.

Take your training indoors. When riding outdoors, consider taking fitness goals out of the equation so you can focus on safety and scenery. You can make up for any lost intensity indoors. “Winter training indoors is the ideal time to grow your aerobic base,” says Candice Schwartz, founder and coach with Paceline Elite Performance Gym. “We love training on a Wattbike indoors because it mimics real cycling feel and the amount of data feedback you receive is immense. Roughly speaking a 60-minute session on a Wattbike is equivalent to around 90 minutes outdoors. Train smart and with focus and you’ll arrive into spring in fine form.” (Read more of Schwartz’s insights on how to make the most of indoor training here.)

Know when to say when. “There are a lot of days in a Colorado winter that are outdoor riding safe, but there are also days when there’s very high wind, freezing rain, or snow,” Zemanek says. “On those days, the safest bet is to take your ride inside.” Lucky for us, centers like BreakAway, Paceline, our Longmont Recreation Center, Ed & Ruth Lehman YMCA, and others offer a range of indoor classes perfect to supplement outdoor training, keep fit, and have fun!

Enjoy! Winter riding is sure to offer a whole new perspective of the roads. Make the most of it. You can start by taking part in Winter Bike to Work Day! Click here for more info.

Ride on, everyone!

Photo credit: Jim Heuck

Jan 16, 2018

Keeping the Momentum Meaningful: Mountain View’s ‘Movement’ Movement

There is much that stands out about the movement program at Mountain View Elementary. As with all SVVSD schools, physical activity is valued and respected as an integral, and influential, part of students’ whole health, availability to learn, and education. But perhaps what best characterizes this close-knit, hardworking Title 1 school’s approach to physical activity is the spirit behind it: there is teamwork, camaraderie, and a heartfelt caring for others.

There may be no more poignant example of the supportive nature of the Mountain View community than at a special end of year ceremony for the school’s 100 Mile Club celebrating the club’s first year. In January of 2016, 10-year old Mountain View student Priscila Acosta tragically passed away as the result of a car accident. Physical Activity Leader and Mountain View PE teacher Josh Law was haunted by the incident. “I kept thinking about it, and even think I had a dream about it, where I just kept wondering, what can we do to honor her,” he says. “I thought, maybe there’s a way we can do so through 100-Mile Club.”

Priscila wasn’t a student who always logged lots of miles, Law says, but she always participated without fail. At the time of her death, she had recorded 33 miles. Law approached principal Jennifer Piccone, and received approval to allow students to donate miles in Priscila’s name. “We didn’t have scanners yet at that point,” Law recounts. “So we logged miles with sticks. At the end of a session, kids would count their sticks and give them to me. When I told them they had an option to donate sticks for Priscila, they all jumped on board. We got her to her 100-mile goal in less than two weeks.”

At the year’s all school assembly, with Priscila’s family present, Law announced all students who donated miles, inviting them to stand up. “That was a really special, impactful moment,” he says. “The biggest takeaway was the selflessness, the power of selfless acts. That was felt significantly, even for the youngest kids, I believe.” Priscila’s family was presented with a shadow box, a T-shirt, and a medal.

Of course, few moments are so stirringly resonant as what took place at that assembly. But even in the regular day-to-day, Mountain View is a role model for teamwork, not in small part due to their physical education teacher and activity leader, himself a graduate of St. Vrain Valley Schools. Law, now in the middle of his 13th year of teaching, all at Mountain View Elementary, didn’t set his sights on teaching particularly early. His journey into the profession is part coming of age, part love story. “I always loved sports, and I had a dream of becoming a professional athlete,” he says. “My senior year of high school, though, head basketball coach Jeff Kloster and head football coach Doug Johnson [of Longmont High School] both suggested I’d be good at teaching. I helped with sport camps throughout high school, and they saw the way I worked. They felt I had the right mindset and temperament. Each was a positive role model for me, each being both my teacher and coach. I had and continue to have a lot of respect for them, so held onto their advice, if just in the back of my mind.”

Law went to college in Kansas where he pursued his baseball dream for a semester. At that point, he changed schools, moving to Oklahoma, where he pursued a degree in education, thinking back to the encouragement of his teachers. After graduating, he moved back to Longmont, where he started to explore coaching options at the college level while substitute teaching. He was just getting serious in his search when he met his future wife, Amber, also from Longmont and whose younger brother he happened to be coaching. “I never looked back,” Law says. “I always wanted to play sports, and I do. I just apply my skills in a different way than I expected. I tell people, I get to share my skills with kids from Kindergarten to 12th grade. That’s pretty cool. ”

Law may not have planned to become a teacher from childhood, but without even realizing it, his teaching was trendsetting. Prior to 100-Mile Club’s implementation, Law and co-leader Joan Maher, a Mountain View first grade teacher, formed a running club at the school. Students participated in run sessions offered twice a day for two days each week, 12 weeks a year, earning trinkets for necklaces. The club was an immediate hit, with the necklaces becoming like status symbols, Law says. “When 100-Mile Club began, we were basically provided more resources and structure for what we were already doing,” he says. “Now we meet year-round.”

In addition to leading 100-Mile Club, Law supports and facilitates all school movement. Teachers are encouraged to take frequent movement breaks, every hour when possible. Each Friday, the school participates in all school movement. “At first it was just me jumping around leading movement to music,” Law says. “But this year I started a google doc, where teachers sign up to lead, outside if it’s nice. Our Spanish Liaison going to start setting up a coffee table for parents to increase involvement and build community.”

Teachers at Mountain View are quick to back the importance of movement at school. They can see the difference activity makes, positively shaping students’ behaviors, focus, and overall outlook. “I sense a real shift in behaviors on 100-Mile Club days,” says 4th grade teacher Courtney Groskin, who participates in the club with her students. And it’s great for goal-setting, too. Kids have an intrinsic desire to better themselves and reach their goals, but not in a competitive way. Everyone is genuinely excited about each other’s milestones.”

Law always makes a point of trying something new each year.This year, one of those things was stacking, with students participating in the World Sport Stacking Association Championships this past fall. Law says the students really enjoyed stacking, and he may well continue. But no matter what or how many new activities are introduced, some things will continue at Mountain View without doubt, such as the wholehearted team approach to movement for the the good of students.

Hanging on the wall outside of the Mountain View gymnasium is a plaque showcasing student recipients of the Priscila Acosta Spirit Award. Above it, a photo of its namesake.This small corner of the elementary school is a compelling reminder of the selflessness and supportive ethic that is fostered here. “There’s a lot to manage in schools these days,” Law says. “It can be overwhelming. But I look forward to it every day–because we get to change lives, and it’s not a short-term thing. It’s for a lifetime.”

Jan 16, 2018

Get to Know: Kendra Miguez

Every ending has the potential open up new beginnings. Kendra Miguez, Founder and Director of the Colorado Women’s Center, has learned this–one might say the hard way, and perhaps she would agree; more likely, she would emphasize that a winding path of self-discovery is radiant with challenge, exhausting and empowering.

When she was 28, Kendra Miguez moved out to Colorado seeking a recharge and new beginnings following a stint in New York City. Having earned her bachelor’s in theater, she’d been pursuing a career as an actress. The pursuit was tough, nearly destroying her self-esteem. She grew tired of the hustle and bustle of it all. She had an aunt who lived in Louisville, a welcome invitation, and a craving for change. As soon as she arrived, Kendra knew there was no going back. “I fell in love with Colorado,” she enthuses. “The open spaces, the mountains. I felt like I had come home.”

Kendra moved to Boulder, where she became involved with the father of her oldest son, Caleb. The relationship didn’t work out, and she found herself raising Caleb on her own, evaluating her future. “I thought, I have a son who depends on me and a Bachelor’s in theater,” Kendra says. “I determined that I needed to pursue other skills for my family.” Drawn to the field of psychology, Kendra went back to school, earning two Master’s degrees in four years as a single mother, one in educational psychology from CU Boulder, and the other in Transpersonal Counseling from Naropa University. “I’m so grateful for the support of my family, those four years,” Kendra says. “My aunt helped me with childcare, and my family was able to offer some financial support. I was ‘on’ round the clock. I was everything–student, nurse, mother, cop…it was hard, it was revealing, and ultimately it was special and meaningful and so worthwhile. Caleb and I have such a strong bond from it.”

After completing her studies, Kendra offered counseling in a variety of settings with the goal of finding her optimal fit. For a time, she provided therapy for convicted felons, holding her sessions in prisons. She worked with a range of ages, from children on up.

Ultimately, she concluded what that she really wanted to work with and support women. “My experience acting, having to present myself as confident while full of self-doubt, found common ground with my experience as a single mother, and simply as a woman,” she says. “There are so many common obstacles presented to all women, regardless of age, race, social standing.  There is so much insecurity, guilt, and shame.”

“My experience of embracing the role of a single mother, despite the stigma and the pain, allowed me to find the strength to break free from it’s limitations. I remember being so proud of this title and I still am, because I was able to discover the greatest form of empowerment through it. And as I began to achieve, when the odds were against me, I developed an internal confidence that I had always been searching for. Once I discovered this form of self-belief, I became deeply dedicated to helping all women discover it. And, it led me to my greatest passion, which is helping women find true empowerment, despite their circumstances. There is nothing that we can’t achieve, if we truly believe in who we are.”

Upon determining the area in which she wanted to specialize, Kendra wasted no time in opening her own practice, Kendra Miguez, Therapy & Counseling for Women, with offices in Boulder and Longmont. During this time she also met her now husband, Hardy Kalisher. “The timing felt so right,” she says. “I grew so much as a person, I feel I attracted the right match.”

Hardy took to Caleb immediately; his son Owen, then 7, bonded with Caleb and Kendra. The family moved to Longmont five years ago, following the birth of their son, Landon, now four. “We’re a blended family,” says Kendra. “We’re a family with elements of ‘mine’, ‘yours’, ‘ours’, but we’re all us. We’re a tribe.”

Longmont proved a happy fit for the family, and for Kendra’s business. She found that as Longmont steadily grew, so did her practice.  Before long, she became so busy, she decided to make a new move. This past fall, Kendra opened the Colorado Women’s Center on 4th and Main, and has expanded her practice to include three additional therapists. Although all four are equally comfortable working with women of all ages, each tends to specialize in a different generation, from children and teens to seniors. The team is in sync with one another, and devoted to offering women a broad range of support options, including sliding scales and various evening groups typically guided by two therapists. The Girls Empowerment Group, for instance, meets weekly for two hours over the course of 6 – 8 weeks, helping teens get together to discuss issues and realize they’re not alone. Some workshops revolve around books, such as a recent one on Brené  Brown’s “The Gift of Imperfection”, which navigated topics such as guilt, shame, and judgment.

To kick off the new year, Colorado Women’s Center is offering a workshop entitled ‘A New Year & A New You’, set to begin Jan 10th. The workshop for women will focus on self-empowerment, self-actualization and creative energy. “We want to guide women in identifying what they want to change about their lives and why, in determining their goals, and in developing their tools to achieve them,” Kendra says. “This is an exciting time for us as women. All the guilt, shame, inequities…these are societal issues coming to light. And we have the power to effect change.”

We can take control of our own destinies, Kendra stresses. A key, most rewarding means of doing so? Opening up to the support of community. “My girlfriends were and are everything to me,” Kendra says. There is such an importance in community and women coming together. Women need each other! My closest friends were there for me during my toughest times in a way that I can’t even describe. We laughed and cried, we cooked, we danced, and we shared the darkest and happiest moments of our lives with one another. That level of support and understanding is irreplaceable. Their unconditional love for Caleb and me, helped us grow and move forward. My girlfriends are my family.”

Some things we can’t change, Kendra says, and that makes us feel disempowered. But we do have choices in addressing things we can change. We do that by facing fears, and by letting people in to help. By the very acknowledgment, there is power in community.

Thank you, Kendra, for the support and believe you instill in our #healthyLongmont community! Thank you for sharing your story, and helping women to take charge in the writing of theirs.

LWL: Where does fitness fit into your busy schedule?

Kendra:  I do yoga religiously. I usually fit it in early morning. Evenings are out, between kids and groups, so if I can’t fit it into mornings then I try to fit something at lunch. Community really helps me with this–it’s harder to do on my own.

LWL: How does your family share active activity together?

Kendra: All my boys play soccer and love it. They take after Hardy, who is head coach at Boulder High in addition to running a digital marketing agency. They all play together. We go skiing and snowboarding together.

Jan 8, 2018

Not Such a Sweet Deal: The Campaign Against Sugary Beverages

Did you know nearly one in four children in Boulder County between the ages of two and fourteen are overweight or obese? That one in three children will develop type 2 diabetes? For children of color, those odds rise to one in two.

It’s no secret, sugar is bad for you. Extremely high glycemic, sugar is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, causing a spike in blood sugar followed by a marked dip, creating fatigue. Not only is it devoid of real nutrients, it taxes the digestive system, is high in calories, and is linked to a host of health issues, including obesity and diabetes.

For parents aiming to limit children’s exposure to sugar, some culprits are obvious. Others may be more difficult to spot, with products disguised as having false nutritional value thanks to savvy marketing. One of the most prevalent examples is sugary beverages, with one juice drink typically equaling the sugar content of eight cookies.

If sometimes it feels like you’re swimming in a sea of conflicting information, overloaded with confusing messaging about so-called “healthy beverages”, be reassured. Here in Longmont, we have a whole lot of support helping to navigate the muddy waters. For one, there is the tireless parent group known as St. Vrain Healthy Kids was recently invited to collaborate with Boulder County Health in the campaign against sugary beverages.

“We were impressed that within just a few months [St. Vrain Healthy Kids] had amassed several hundred followers by posting informative messages about healthy eating and the connection between food and academic performance,” says Tessa Hale, Boulder County Public Health Beverage and Food Advisor. “I immediately recognized the effectiveness of their ability to reach parents, educate, and advocate by educating and inspiring, and therefore reached out to them.”

With financial support from Boulder County Public Health, St. Vrain Healthy Kids is putting offering two key educational events informing the Longmont community about the harms of sugary drinks while promoting healthy alternatives, like water.  The first event will be held at the Longmont Youth Center January 22, and will be speaking particularly to teens and their families. Panel members will include Dr. Yaira Oquendo-Figueroa, Director of Training for Behavioral Health at Salud Medical Center; Dr. Jody Davis, DDS Family Dentistry at Salud Medical Center; and Michael Beer, Medical Director at Salud Medical Director at Salud Medical Center. 

A second event is scheduled for April 18 at the Longmont Museum, and will engage local experts to weigh in on discussions. Each event, along with other promotional materials, are offered in English and Spanish.

Want to learn more, and support the cause? Visit hidden-sugar.org/, launched by the Healthy Beverage Partnership to increase public awareness. Watch the compelling videos, which will also be shared and discussed at the Sugar Panel events, Sugar is Killing Us; The Sugary Truth; and The Hidden Dangers of Sugary Beverages, which was created by a high school student. Follow St. Vrain Healthy Kids on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Mark your calendars for January 22 at the Longmont Youth Center, and again for April 18 at the Longmont Museum. Most of all, be a positive role model. Consider if there’s room to rethink your drink. Every sip counts. 

Mark your calendars!
Sugar Panel
January 22
Longmont Youth Center
1050 Lashley St

4 – 6 pm

April 18
Longmont Museum
400 Quail Road
4 – 6 pm

Presentations will be offered in English and Spanish. Childcare provided. 

Jan 2, 2018

Our New Fiscal Sponsor!

It is a great pleasure at LiveWell Longmont to announce Community Food Share as our new fiscal sponsor. As a leader in our community’s effort to end hunger in Boulder and Broomfield Counties, Community Food Share is an ideal partner in our progressing our LiveWell Longmont mission to support community health. This new relationship represents an exciting opportunity to bring together a wide range of resources and expertise with a shared vision for a community where every individual has access to healthy choices.

LiveWell Longmont is dedicated to reducing obesity and associated risks by ensuring the accessibility of healthy eating and active living opportunities for all who live, work, learn, and play in Longmont; the LiveWell Longmont Coalition continuously works together to encourage healthy choices through a supportive environment. Since 2008, LiveWell Longmont has leveraged over $5 million in funding from LiveWell Colorado, various grants, in-kind support and match dollars to promote health and prevent obesity through the advancement of healthy eating and active living opportunities, education, and policies.

In 2016, LiveWell Longmont was awarded a generous grant through the competitive Cancer Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Disease (CCPD) Grants Program. With this funding, the One Healthy Longmont initiative worked toward addressing health barriers faced by prioritized neighborhoods with high prevalence of health disparities. With One Healthy Longmont funds, collective resources have and continue to be utilized to create new avenues for established and emerging local leaders to effectively identify and address environmental barriers to health and wellness within their neighborhood communities, while also improving retail access to healthy food options.

As a fellow non-profit with exemplary reach, community engagement, experience and close alignment with food access issues, Community Food Share is an ideal match for progressing the One Healthy Longmont initiative to completion. With this move, we have had opportunity to reflect on our work over these past ten years in our #healthyLongmont community, and further look ahead at the future. This includes integration of the existing momentum of our work with our partners. 

We wish to express our appreciation for the support we have received from Longmont United Hospital with Centura Health.  An original member of the LiveWell Longmont Coalition and longtime partner, Longmont United Hospital has served as the LiveWell Longmont fiscal sponsor since March of 2013. Over the years, we have cherished the opportunity to work with this exceptional organization. 

Over the course of the next six months, we will be working to integrate our work with Community Food Share and other community organizations. LiveWell Longmont will be concluding as its own organization at the end of June, 2018. It is with bittersweetness that we share this news. We have loved being an integral part of Longmont’s healthy progress over this past decade. However, we are confident that our efforts will be meaningfully and purposefully sustained in capable hands. We will share further details and updates over the next several months as we continue to work toward our goals. Thank you, our healthy Longmont community, for your positive momentum and support! We welcome the exciting new chapters ahead.

Dec 21, 2017

Warm, fuzzy holiday stress relief: meet Avery

Has holiday bustle got you feeling a little…stressed? You’re not alone. We all know that parceled in with the holiday season typically is a whole lot of tension, fatigue, and anxiety. For those in search of a little relief, if just some momentary peace, we propose some warm and fuzzy therapy that doesn’t cost a thing. It’s been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce tension and anxiety, boost immunity, and lessen fatigue. But don’t take our word for it. Instead, take a few moments to meet Avery, or any one of her fellow therapists. We guarantee you’ll be rewarded for your time with some added sunshine and smiles you didn’t even realize were quite so needed.

Avery Yarrish Hobart is not your typical therapist. For one thing, she’s four years old. She’s strong, however, weighing in at 63 pounds. And as you’ll have by now presumed, she is a dog. An English cream golden retriever, to be specific.

Longmonsters Bridget Hobart and Mark Yarrish brought Avery into their family four years ago this past July. Shortly thereafter, they moved to Longmont from Boulder, and fell in love with our #healthyLongmont community. “We immediately wanted to give back,” says Bridget. “We wanted to add to the sense of community.”

The couple began brainstorming ideas through which they could become more involved in supporting community. Noting their new puppy’s sweet, mellow disposition, the idea of getting trained as pet therapy volunteers came up. Not long after, while out for lunch with Avery, they experienced a brief, chance encounter that clinched it. “Two women were also at the restaurant, one who was developmentally disabled,” Bridget shares. “The woman came over and just picked up Avery. As she held her,  there was this instant calm bond between them. As the woman pet our dog, we could see this smile wash over her face. Her companion commented that she’d  never seen her friend so happy. We’d just been talking about Avery becoming a therapy dog. We were so moved. That sealed it.”

Bridget and Mark lost no time in trying to enroll Avery in Longmont United Hospital’s training program—and were put on a two-year waiting list. Rather than feeing daunted, they celebrated the implications of the program’s popularity. “We thought , what a great town that we live in, that this is so competitive! A two-year waiting list for a dog to volunteer at the hospital!” says Bridget. “That reaffirmed the choice we’d made, moving to Longmont.”

When Avery was finally admitted into the pet therapy program, there was no room for slacking. In order to qualify, the family had to become members of two organizations: ATD (Alliance of Therapy Dogs), and Longmont United Hospital’s TAILS (Therapeutic Animals in Loving Service). Avery, as well as parents Mark and Bridget, had to pass numerous tests, including for her ability to focus on her owner and task at hand in public settings. She had to listen on command without reaction amid distractions, such as the likes of pots banged in her face, yelling, and general commotion. She had to follow numerous instructions, eventually in trial situations where therapy dogs are allowed. Mark and Bridget each had to demonstrate their abilities with Avery, showing how the dog-owner pair worked as a team. Avery passed with flying colors, passing her Good Citizen test as well.

Now one year into volunteering  as of this past fall, Mark and Bridget find themselves continually inspired and astounded at the impact therapy animals can make.  “We’d watched videos and knew a bit what to expect, but never in a million years would we have really expected the depth of the healing and bonding we’ve gotten the fortune to witness,” Bridget says. “People come alive, truly. Even if the contact is just momentary, these animals offer very unique, unconditional love. Avery goes in and lights people’s lives. Even those who are wary or hesitant at first. For a minute they forget about their illness or afflictions. I hear all the time from people how she’s made their day. The words of affirmation after visits…sometimes I’m made speechless. I walk away in tears.”

Of course, Avery and crew can’t just trot into the hospital brightening days at random. Rigorous hygienic precautions are taken before and after visits. Volunteers always check in with doctors for particular restrictions. They also check in with doctors to give them a little bit of…may we say pawsome…therapy, too. “Those nurses and doctors have really stressful days,” says Bridget. “We’re here for them, too. Over time, we’ve become familiar with may staff as well as patients.They pet the dogs, and they experience these glimmers of relief as well.”

As she’s developed into her role as a therapy dog, Avery’s caring ministrations have branched out beyond the hospital as well. She has gone to visit Boy Scout groups, for example, to show and talk about therapy dogs, got to know other dogs and owners. Bridget describes how in one group session, a boy hesitantly asked softly whether petting dogs can help with depression. She responded affirmatively, inviting him to try, and as he did she observed his face relax and bloom. “I held back tears,” she says. “That was really special.”

Since becoming a therapy dog, Mark and Bridget notice she seems to have even further developed remarkable sense of intuition. “I think she knows that letting people pet her brings them joy,” Bridget says. “She’s so empathic. In any given room, she seems to sense who needs the most stress relief. She gravitates right to them.” As for Bridget and Mark, they’ve evolved throughout the experience, too. “We want to do more,” Bridget says. “ We’re not gonna stop here. We want to give back to our community in more ways, because we see the results in each small outreach. So many positive results.”

Thank you, Bridget, Mark and not least Avery, for your caring, commitment, and hard work. You do make our community doggone proud!

 

 

 

 

Dec 15, 2017

Kids in the Kitchen: SVVSD Toddler and Me Class cooks up healthy habits

Picture this: smashed bananas smearing giggling grins. Chubby hands rattling measuring spoons with gleeful vigor. Banana pudding stirred with such force, toddler shoes continuously fly off in sync. Typical chaotic, careworn attempts at producing meals in households with young children? Not exactly. This is a learning experience.  We’re not being tongue in cheek. This is merely a window of wonder, a limited snapshot of Toddler and Me cooking class, held for teen parents with their young ones this past September and offered by SVVSD Nutrition Services in conjunction with Cooking Matters.

Mealtimes with young children can be stressful, particularly after a long or frustrating day. They are also golden opportunities, to bond, converse, share, and set the stage for healthy eating habits that will reap a lifetime of benefits. Studies increasingly corroborate, getting kids involved in the kitchen can go a long way in positively influencing their food choices and encourage long-lasting healthy habits. Best part? It’s never too early–or too late–to start.

Of course, we all know many a great idea that inspire us in theory take a fair amount of thought, planning, and skill to put into practice, at least at first. Incorporating children into food prep can be awfully daunting, from a safety to a management point of view, let alone getting organized with recipes, ingredients, and timing. Here’s where Toddler and Me cooking comes in, offering reassurance and the basic ingredients for success, literally.

Two years ago  SVVSD Nutrition Services Director Shelly Allen and her team began programming for teen parents as part of a grant from Chef Ann Foundation. During this time, Allen developed a partnership with Cooking Matters, a nonprofit whose mission is to combat food insecurity by providing education on eating and preparing healthy meals on a budget. “Seeing the whole program evolve was really exciting,” Allen says. “It was really inspiring to think of all the ways we could explore the potential of this partnership, within and outside of the grant.” One of those possibilities was a healthy cooking class geared for parents at Rocky Mountain Elementary, held last spring. This year, Toddler and Me was piloted as part of Olde Columbine’s Teen Parenting Program. 

The Teen Parenting Program (TPP) has been a part of SVVSD for over 20 years. The TPP is a career and technical education program that is designed to 1) teach young parents the skills necessary to successfully parent a child and 2) to provide an on-site nursery so that parents can visit and feed their young child through the school day. At the inaugural Toddler and Me class, which Allen and her team hope to expand for greater reach, students spent a first hour learning about when to introduce foods to their children, how to create healthy food environments; the second half of the class was devoted to parents making two recipes with their children (mostly babies, and all under 5) working alongside. 

“It was incredible,” says SVVSD Nutrition Services Wellness Coordinator Sarah Harter. “Parents were really struck with the idea that even kids as little as nine months can help in the kitchen. Moms and dads were awestruck.They were excited to go home and cook.” Supporting the enthusiasm, participating parents received a booster or high chair, a reusable bib, a toddler-sized MyPlate bowl, and additional, valuable take home resources.

At the class, students made two quick and healthy recipes: a quick banana yogurt pudding and a bean salad. “Most of the children were too small to actually eat the food, still bottle-fed,” Harter says, “but it didn’t matter. The one older child ate everything up, with gusto. The others were still engaged, and joyful. It was really amazing.”

 

Dec 11, 2017

Longmont CHAMPS Summer Meals Program Makes a Difference

Let’s be honest: who among us can count on pleasant behavior once we haven’t eaten in awhile? We can all relate to feeling hangry, thus the  immediately relatability of the term (a portmanteau if you’re wondering). But food insecurity is no light matter. In fact, nearly 1 in 8 individuals within Boulder County are struggling with hunger, not always having enough money to buy food. Of food stamp recipients within Colorado, more than 3 in 4 include children.

School meal programs go a long way to help children meet nutritional needs. In the summer months, when school is not in session, there are many children left without lunch. Fortunately, there is momentum across the state to support this lack in providing healthy lunches. In Longmont, the CHAMPS (Cities Combating Hunger through Afterschool and Summer Meal Programs) initiative has made a significant impact since 2015, and continues to grow and thrive as it expands programming in exciting ways.

Longmont’s CHAMPS is a Summer Meals Program for Longmont and surrounding areas. Throughout the nine-week summer period, lunches are served Monday through Thursday at no cost to families. Lunches are served by St. Vrain Valley School District as the sponsor for the USDA Meal program. In the first year of the program, meals served to adults were provided at cost to the community. Over the two years following, the cost of adult meals was covered, thanks to a $100,000 grant from Kaiser Permanente. Each of those summers, over 9,000 meals were served. Looking ahead to summer 2018, the program projects serving more than 11,000 meals at nine different sites, targeting the areas where free and reduced lunches are the highest.

CHAMPS Summer Meal program aims to increase fruit and vegetable consumption, improve access to healthy foods, and strengthen the nutritional value of foods available. The program continues to grow in exciting ways since its launch, owing to the generous grant from Kaiser Permanente and also to numerous meaningful partnerships, including Longmont Community Services Department: Children, Youth, and Families (CYF); the Longmont Public Library; Longmont Recreation Services; and Community Food Share, as well as numerous other caring, committed local organizations that participate in associated activities.

With the support of such partnerships, the summer meal program often serves as a gateway to a wealth of enrichment opportunities and resources. Children, Youth and Families is responsible for the overall coordination of the after-school and summer meal program, and works with St. Vrain Valley School District to plan the dates and approximate meals served at each strategically selected site. CYF further interfaces with all project collaborators. Longmont Public Library, which plans and offers summer reading programs, maintains a traveling “book cycle” stocked with materials and supplies at the various sites. Recreation Services offers summer recreation activities in the parks. Community Food Share, Boulder County’s food bank, has generously offered to support the CHAMPS program with supplemental food–a full cart of groceries to families every other week via a mobile pantry at two of the sites.

Food insecurity is a serious issue. But thanks to the support of generous grants and community partnerships, steps are being taken to combat this daunting problem. The CHAMPS summer meals program not only addresses hunger, it provides educational and recreational opportunities aimed at nourishing whole families on many levels. The impact is profound. “I get aggravated when I’m hungry, like a troll under a bridge” says Longmont Youth Center participant Javier. “But this way everybody can just have a good meal and last until the end of the day.”

Dec 4, 2017

Get to Know: Ana Lucaci

No doubt, Ana Lucaci walks the talk, and the walk. Literally and figuratively, she can be counted on to go that extra mile, always. And if you are lucky enough to find yourself in her path, chances are she’ll carry you along with her for awhile, extending a warm welcome and opening windows of possibility.

Ana moved to Longmont from Romania on a diversity visa in 2008, just after completing her Masters in European Studies. With the help of her cousin living in Longmont, she wasted no time in getting to know the area. She secured her first job here with Pharmerica Pharmacy and she’s been with the State of Colorado as a Policy Specialist since 2013, and volunteered extensively with the Longmont  Theater Company, where she met the man whom she would later marry, now vice-president of the Longmont Theater Company Board.  Life was good.

Ana fell in love with her new community, and was full of appreciation for her new life. In 2013, she pledged her citizenship to the United States. She wanted to give back. In the back of her mind, an idea was simmering, a way to promote community. Despite the many great attributes of her new community, something was lacking. “It struck me, no one was out walking,” she says. “I would go outside and feel like, ‘where is everybody?’ I was used to seeing people everywhere. In Romania,the town structure is quite pedestrian-based. That is a really key part of social life.”

As Ana got to know Longmont and the surrounding areas, she appreciated the sidewalks, paths, and trails. She thought how nice it would be to get more people out there walking together, facilitating people getting to know one another. Then, January 2015, while crossing the street after work in Denver, Ana was hit by a car, and life changed.

“I was at a crosswalk downtown,” Ana recalls. “I had clearance from the pedestrian crossing signal to go, but the drivers turning left also had a green light. The first car stopped for me to cross, but the driver behind decided to pass and hit me.” The impact was serious–Ana sustained injuries to her lower back, left ankle, and left wrist. The intense pain on impact was followed by a significant period of equally intense physical therapy. Nevertheless, Ana focuses on the positive, eyeing the many ways she was “lucky”. ” The driver was in a pick-up truck,” she says. “Had the car been lower down, my legs would have been hit straight on. Also, since it was winter, I was all bundled up, which helped to lessen the impact. And finally, my laptop was slung over my left shoulder at the time, so it absorbed a good bit of shock.”

While not everyone would necessarily liken a destroyed laptop in a car crash to a stroke of luck, Ana’s trademark way of gleaning the silver linings from every experience certainly served her well through this one. “I needed to be sure to do a lot of exercise outside of of physical therapy,” she says. “Speaking with my sports medicine doctor, we determined walking was the best supplementary exercise I could do. I thought, ‘great, something I am already doing and was built to do’.”

Hardly a moment passed once Ana’s doctor suggested adding more walking to her regimen when the Surgeon General issues a Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities. The call emphasized both the innumerable health benefits to walking and the importance of safe, accessible places for all community members to get out and enjoy fresh air and exercise. Ana was inspired by the timing. She contacted LiveWell Longmont Manger Melissa Houghton, offering to lead Longmont After Work Ambles throughout the month of May, 2016, as part of the annual LiveWell Colorado Get Moving Challenge. The walks were so successful and well received, she continued the weekly walks, which are still held today, listing the regularly varied locations through Walk2Connect and Boulder Ramblers. The energizing, themed walking routes highlight various aspects of our #HealthyLongmont: historic Longmont, parks and recreation areas, neighborhoods, and more. Each weekly walk duration is one hour, and open to all paces.

In addition to her weekly Longmont Ambles, Ana set up and led a Jane’s Walk in June. Jane’s Walk is a global movement of free, citizen-led walking tours inspired by Jane Jacobs, a writer, self-taught urbanist and community advocate for standing up to big development at the expense of more personal downtown centers. The walks encourage people to tell stories about their communities, explore their cities, and connect with neighbors. “I read about her and thought, yeah, that’s what I want to do,” Ana says. “Then, when I was telling a friend about Jane, she said, ‘oh, she’s like you!’, which was pretty cool. I realized, OK, I guess I am kind of a mini Jane Jacobs.”

Obviously, Ana didn’t take her post-crash recovery sitting down. She took brisk, long walks by herself, she organized and walked with others, and oh, by the way, did we mention she earned her Master’s in  Public Health while working full-time all the while? Time is certainly a commodity she appreciates, but Ana is comfortable with her busy schedule. She enjoys the opportunity to support a healthy community through leading and supporting regular walks. “Walking is such great exercise, and such a wonderful way for people to get to know their neighbors and community,” she says. “Walking and talking, everyone relaxes and builds refreshed energy. They learn from each other, get to know each other. Over time, everything about the community becomes brighter.” However, in promoting walking for health, Ana is also highly mindful, and motivated, when it comes to promoting pedestrian safety. 

Last spring, Ana was awarded a fellowship with America Walks Walking College, sponsored bythe  CDC and American Public Health Association. While working full-time, leading walks, and continuing her involvement in theater, Ana took classes online and participated in work groups via weekly video conferences for a period of five months, culminating with the Walking Summit held September 2017. She worked her way through various modules, focusing on everything from advocacy and how to promote walking to building walkable communities and improving walkability. At the Walking Summit, Ana presented her project for her fellowship: her Made2Walk campaign is designed to showcase pedestrians’ right of way to motorists. Included are both educational and enforcement components which she is working with city officials and the Longmont Police Department to implement.

Inspired by Ana’s momentum? So are we. Lest you find her the prospect of following in her footsteps a little daunting, however, know that one needn’t necessarily create a compelling campaign to make a difference and promote walkability. Truly, every step does count. Take it from Ana. “The first step in making a difference is as simple as showing up,” she says. “The city offers great opportunities to talk about and invite input on improvement projects. Just show up. This is the city’s opportunity to hear what the community really needs. You don’t need to prepare, you just need to be there.”

Want to make the most out of walking your way? That’s all about showing up, too. To get the most out of walking, visit Walk 2 Connect or Boulder Ramblers for interesting routes and meetup opportunities, Ana suggests. Follow Ana on Twitter, @Made2Walk. Don’t worry about pace, fitness, just do it. “We’re all made to walk,” Ana says. “We’re pedestrians by design. Even if we’re riding in a car most of the time, at some point everyone becomes a pedestrian.”

There’s nothing pedestrian about your approach to walking, and to life, Ana! Thank you for sharing and being such a healthy community role model!

LWL: What does your fitness routine look like? Obviously it involves a lot of walking…
Ana: I go to Boot Camp classes at Fit Chick Express to boost my core. 2-3 mornings a week. Of course I lead weekly walks–once weekly at a minimum; I also contract with Longmont Downtown Development Authority (LDDA) to lead special event walks.We offered a glow in the dark brewery tour, and are hosting a Christmas lights walk Friday, December 8, downtown. I’ll also join in on other walks with Walk2Connect after work. And I like Aquazumba at Centennial Pool. It’s really fun.

LWL: What are some things you and your husband do to prioritize healthy eating?
Ana: We have an app for our shopping list. Organizing is a simple way to prioritize health. We like to make smoothies every morning, especially during the week. Meal prepping is also important when you have a busy life. I learned a lot in the past year from the Fit Chick group and I now prepare our protein breakfasts for the work-week on Mondays, to make sure we get it one of the most important meals of the day.

LWL: Where is your favorite Longmont place to be active?
Ana: There are so many. McIntosh is so nice. I like to go through neighborhoods, taking solo walks. Oligarchy Ditch Greenway is a favorite area for reflection. I get inspired by the water there. I store my thoughts with the hashtag, #lessonsfromtheriver on Twitter.

LWL: What do you treasure most about Longmont?
Ana: The community, definitely. When I moved here, I only knew my cousin, who was new in town as well, but I found community in the Longmont Theater Company, and it became my second family. People here are really warm and welcoming.

LWL: What would you like to see develop in Longmont’s Healthy Future?
Ana: I would  like to see a  Vision Zero.
Vision Zero is a multi-national road traffic safety project that aims to achieve a highway system with no fatalities or serious injuries involving road traffic. I would love to see communities connected to each other  more by multi-modal transportation and keep in mind the pedestrians–the walkers, runners, joggers, strollers, wheelchairs, etc.

Nov 20, 2017

SVVSD Celebrates Happy Harvest Year-round

At Rocky Mountain Elementary, Colorado Proud Day, recognized on September 13th, was a twofold celebration. Fresh, local Colorado produce enjoyed a shining spotlight, showcased as part of the school’s first of three annual Harvest Days beginning this year. As 2nd graders filed into the cafeteria for their scheduled lunch period, a somewhat quiet, dutiful attention to lunchtime routines gradually gave way to excitement and exclamations, oohs and ahhs that echoed appreciation for the star of the day: tomatoes.

Originally offered at Flagstaff Academy as part of a grant from the Chef Ann Foundation, SVVSD Nutrition Services, in collaboration with Boulder County Farmers Market, OIlin Farms, and parent-led nutrition advocacy group St. Vrain Healthy Kids Harvest Days are proud to be expanding this year to six schools, and hope to continue broadening their reach. At each Harvest Day event, salad bars are free; in instances where schools do not already have a permanent salad bar in place, Nutrition Services provides a mobile one for the day. Fresh produce is offered, delicious produce is offered in both raw and prepared forms that kids can really sink their teeth into. And as much as the reception at Rocky Mountain Elementary’s inaugural event is an indicator, sink their teeth they surely do.

“I don’t usually like the salad bar,” says 2nd grader Julliana honestly. “I just kind of like that it’s a place to hole my tray for a minute.” Just then, Nutrition Services Director Shelly Allen invitingly encourages the kids approaching the salad bar. “Wait until you try the purple one,” she enthuses, pointing to the bin of bright, cheerful looking tri-colored cherry tomatoes. “It’s AMAZING.” When her turn comes, Julliana accepts a deep serving spoonful of tomatoes, initial skepticism seemingly erased from her face.

As students pack the tables throughout the cafeteria, Nutrition Services Wellness Coordinator Sarah Harter, St. Vrain Healthy Kids co-founder Jodie Popma and volunteer Claudia Perez rotate among them offering raw and prepared tomato treats, as well as “I Love Local” stickers in exchange for tasting. Today’s enticing, colorful cherry tomatoes from Ollin Farms are paired with a prepared version, lightly roasted with a touch of olive oil and fresh herbs atop whole wheat crackers. “You’re going to LOVE this,” Popma promises. “Tastes just like a pizza but it’s better for your body.”

Not everyone looks completely convinced by Popma’s pizza analogy prior to tasting, but one bite and the difference is visible across their faces. “Wow! exclaims student Alexis. “I just got a surprise in my mouth! I love it!”

Upon tasting the raw and prepared tomato offerings, some students reveal it is their first time sampling fresh tomatoes. “It’s great to see kids touching, tasting, using all their senses to explore something new,” says volunteer Perez, whose two children attend Flagstaff Academy. “My kids are used to having fresh and healthy food available all the time. But we can’t assume that is the case for kids, ever. It’s really great that schools are taking steps like this to introduce and reinforce healthy eating.”

Families are provided with Harvest Day recipes in students’ weekly folders. “We really want to encourage consumption of fruits and vegetables,” says Allen. “We also hope, here, to really increase participation. At Rocky Mountain, we offer lunch to all students at no cost. We want to reassure parents that there really is a range of healthy offerings provided that kids will love.”

This year, in addition to Rocky Mountain Elementary School, Sanborn Elementary, Niwot Elementary, and Thunder Valley K-8 will be adding three Harvest Days to their calendars, joining Flagstaff Academy and Eagle Crest Elementary School. Volunteers are always welcome! Contact Jodie Popma at [email protected] for more information. Happy harvest reflections, #HealthyLongmont!