Community Impact Health Pathway Faces of Success: Anthony & Xeniya Payne
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Title Health Pathway

Faces of Success: Anthony & Xeniya Payne

Do you remember what it was like to go to the doctor as a child? There were strange instruments, poking and prodding, not to mention painful shots. These are a few of the many reasons most children dread the inside of a doctor’s office. Anthony and Xeniya Payne are no different.

“They will do whatever they can to keep themselves out of the doctor’s office,” said Anthony and Xeniya’s mother, Shalesha Payne.

Payne’s family health history includes diabetes and high blood pressure. This single mother of two has taken an active role in improving the health outcomes of her children by enrolling them in United Way’s SPARK™ (Sport-Play-Active-Recreation-for-Kids) after-school program funded by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee Health Foundation.

“Exercise is very important because many children don’t get the proper nutrition they need these days,” said Payne. “I looked into the criteria of the SPARK™ after-school program and discovered that the kids do a lot of exercising and also learn about nutrition.”

The SPARK™ after-school program was first introduced in 2015 with a goal of improving the health of children through structured physical activity and nutrition. It’s offered at four United Way Family Resource Centers and is open to children and adolescents ages 5-14. The SPARK™ after-school program relies on trained internal staff members at each location where the program is offered. These staff members lead students in structured physical activity to reach a goal of 60 minutes daily.

While her children enjoy all aspects of the SPARK™ after-school program, Payne has noticed a drastic improvement in the family’s eating habits since her kids have participated.

“We went to Kroger the other day and all my daughter wanted was bananas, apples and oranges,” said Payne. “I can tell they have learned a lesson about eating right. I have cookies and candy at home and they would rather grab an apple or orange instead of junk food.”

The SPARK™ after-school program has kept exercise interesting and fun for more than 400 Metropolitan Nashville Public School students who have participated, even on days when they might lack motivation to exercise.

“Sometimes my daughter will say, ‘I don’t feel like running.’ At Bethlehem United Way Family Resource Center, they make running part of games like kickball or tag. She doesn’t even realize she’s doing it.”

The SPARK™ after-school program also offers quarterly fitness assessments for participants. Payne remembers the day Anthony discovered how the program helped take his physical fitness to an entirely new level. “He came home and said to me, ‘Mom, I can do pushups! I can do pushups! Football players do pushups!’ I asked him, ‘Are you going to be a football player now?’ He and his sister seem destined to live active lifestyles thanks to their participation in SPARK™.”

When it comes to keeping the doctor away, an apple a day is only part of the equation. The other part is the structured physical activity Metropolitan Nashville Public School students receive from the SPARK™ after-school program. Shalesha Payne’s children probably won’t have to worry about those dreaded trips to the doctor any time soon, thanks to the SPARK™ after-school program.

Click here to volunteer at Field Day with kids from this program. 
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