- Associated Press - Thursday, February 27, 2014

KOKOMO, Ind. (AP) - It’s tough to keep up with Tricia Harlow at Family Fitness Nights. She never stops moving.

The Western Primary School physical education teacher started February’s fitness night with parachute games. She then hopped on stage and turned up the music to lead students, teachers and parents in energetic dance and workout moves for a 40-minute cardio session. The evening wrapped up with relay races.

“It’s more than just playing a game; we have a reason for what we’re doing,” said Harlow, who has been teaching at Western for seven years after spending four years with Kokomo School Corp. “Our habits we (develop as young children) will stick with us when we’re older. It’s harder as we get older and have preconceived ideas. . It’s easier to start good habits now.”

Amber Kinslow joined in the workout with her third-grade son, Hazen. They have attended every Family Fitness Night this school year, the second year Harlow has hosted the events for Western K-5 students and their families.

“It lets us be active together,” Kinslow told the Kokomo Tribune (http://bit.ly/1epqqDT ).

Hazen said his favorite part is “everything.”

“It’s fun,” he added. “I like going up on stage and I like the relays.”

Family Fitness Nights continue to draw 30 to 100 people each month, depending on what sports are in season and how much free time families have.

“I have a huge turnout of teachers, which the kids love,” Harlow said.

She draws on her numerous athletic certifications and sports background to come up with fun ways to keep families active. The variety of activities offered at Family Fitness Nights helps people find the niche that works for them.

“I try to get parents involved so they don’t just sit in the bleachers and watch the kids work out,” she said. “I think it’s important for kids to have parents spend time not just with homework, but with play time. We get so busy with our to-do lists that we forget to play with our kids.”

In addition to benefiting attendees by keeping them fit, Family Fitness Nights also help Western’s Buddy Bag program, which provides bags of food for the weekends to students who need them.

The Kohl’s Cares Associates in Action initiative donates $500 to Buddy Bags every time at least five Kohl’s employees volunteer at a Family Fitness Night. So far this year, the fitness nights have brought $3,500 for Buddy Bags.

Harlow had worked with the Kohl’s Cares program before, and some Kohl’s employees whose children attend Western approached her about getting Family Fitness Nights involved with Associates in Action.

“Since I was already doing the Family Fitness Night, it was a no brainer,” Harlow said. “Kohl’s employees and their grant program go out of their way to help out our local community. They are an amazing group of people who dedicate many unpaid hours to help our local community.”

Becoming a physical education teacher was a natural choice for Harlow, who has roots in both athletics and education. The Western High School graduate played volleyball, tennis and summer softball during her school years, and her mother, Karen Foster, is a first-grade teacher at Western.

Harlow’s middle school physical education teacher, Lynn Guin, who still teaches in the district, offered further inspiration for her future career.

“She made class fun and helped me see there is fun in being active and staying healthy,” Harlow said. “There is fun in physical activity. A lot of people associate it with dread. . There’s so many different things out there to stay active, you just have to find the one that’s right for you.”


Information from: Kokomo Tribune, http://www.ktonline.com



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