BR ‘Family Fit Day’ a hit with park visitors

Already looking to instill a healthy living aspect into his family’s lifestyle, Heish Northern was pleased to learn from his wife that they would be in Baton Rouge the same weekend as the inaugural Baton Rouge Family Fit Day.

Northern and his wife, Baton Rouge transplants who now reside in Houston, had driven back to their hometown to pick up their children — Brook, 3, and Adam Northern, 7 — from a grandparent’s house and learned about the event while in the Capital City.

“My wife sent me an email saying we should do this and here we are,” Northern, 41, said as his son finished his fingerpainting masterpiece.

His son was laboring on it at an East Baton Rouge Parish Recreation and Park Commission tent around the horseshoe parking lot at BREC’s City-Brooks Park.

The Northerns joined other families taking advantage of the Family Fit Day — sponsored by the city-parish, BREC and local hospitals — under a beautiful Saturday morning sun at the park and its corresponding City Park Lake, where they enjoyed running, cycling and exercise classes.

The five-hour event, which began at 7 a.m., featured instructors teaching children the basics of tennis, women dancing to hip-hop music in Zumba classes and four-legged friends getting exercise during the pet walk around the Healthy BR Loop, a route connecting the park with the May Street end of the lake.

Northern said he and his wife always keep an eye out for healthy living events where they can bring the children.

“I think it’s important to be getting them outside and active,” Heish Northern said.

He said Houston has some events similar to the one Saturday in Baton Rouge, but they are not as big and are generally inside.

Adam Northern said his favorite part was the BREC art tent because he likes to paint and he got to use “his fingers and you had to mix the colors.”

Andy Allen, community outreach coordinator for Baton Rouge’s Healthy City Initiative, said they began brainstorming ideas for Saturday’s event after seeing other cities successfully run their own Family Fit Days.

“If it somehow fits in the healthy eating and active space, it fits here,” Allen said.

Allen said they received a good response from community groups and organizations when Allen and others approached them about participating, some of which had been clamoring for the event for some time.

The one stipulation Allen said they gave the groups were that they could not just set up tables with pamphlets that are ubiquitous at other events, but had to couple that information with physical activity.

For example, Woman’s Hospital had a tent set up with health literature while offering Zumba and hip-hop dancing classes.

Allen said officials will meet with groups that participated in the next few weeks to hear their experiences and learn how to make the event better.

One of the groups participating was Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, which gave away four orange, black and gray Harley-Davidson tricycles for youngsters.

Volunteer Susan Authement, a respiratory therapy student at Our Lady of the Lake College, walked around with her 6-year-old son Anthony while getting parents to sign up their children for the giveaway.

She works and studies a lot, but was able to combine her two favorite things Saturday: volunteering and spending time with Anthony.

“I like volunteering,” Authement said while watching with a smile as Anthony tried his hand with the hula-hoop. “It fills me. And nothing beats the smile on his face.”