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Parents, kids encouraged to ‘ACT!’ up at Marysville YMCA

Robbie St. Jean, left, and mom Shelly take pride in Robbie’s completion of last winter’s “Actively Changing Together” program at the Marysville YMCA. - Courtesy Photo
Robbie St. Jean, left, and mom Shelly take pride in Robbie’s completion of last winter’s “Actively Changing Together” program at the Marysville YMCA.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

As far as Ronda Hardcastle is concerned, the key to getting kids fitter is ensuring that their parents are actively involved as well.

Hardcastle serves as the health and well-being director for the Marysville YMCA and is looking forward to the start of “ACT!” — “Actively Changing Together” — this month at YMCAs throughout Snohomish County.

The 12-week ACT! program for children and teens starts Sept. 12 at the Marysville Y and offers nutrition and exercise guidelines that the whole family can put into practice and, according to Hardcastle, its success depends on the whole family — parents and kids alike — taking part in the program.

“Parents are an integral part of this program,” Hardcastle said. “We’re not just running the kids through this. Fitness begins at home. If you don’t include the parents, then you can teach the kids about healthy living and eating until you’re blue in the face, but they’re not the ones who are going to be doing most of the cooking in the house. We need to reinforce the support system for these lessons at home.”

To that end, not only does ACT! provide translators for Spanish-speaking parents, but each session will also include discussion periods, with the instructors and within the groups themselves, that will require program participants to be actively engaged in learning the lessons and contributing their own experiences.

“We want them to develop a camaraderie,” Hardcastle said. “Of course we’ll be going over information about carbohydrates, fats and the food pyramid, as well as how they put together their own menus, but they actually have to do that as homework, and then come back and tell us how it went.”

While parents and kids will share exercise and discussion periods as part of ACT!, the parents will also be given their own separate exercise and discussion periods, as will their kids, so that they can exchange ideas among their peers.

“The most important thing about the program is that you have to be willing to try things out and put forth the effort,” Hardcastle said. “You won’t gain any benefits from it if you just sit through it. You’ve got to be willing to get down and dirty.”

ACT! is for children aged 8-11 and teens aged 12-14 who are referred by a health care provider and have a BMI equal to or greater than the 85th percentile. Each weekly 90-minute session is completely free to those who qualify, thanks to the YMCA’s “Invest in Youth” funds.

“This is one of the programs that we pound on doors to get donations for,” Hardcastle said.

A nutritionist and physical activity coach will lead each session of ACT!, whose games and activities to build cardiovascular health, strength and flexibility will include fitness stations, obstacle courses, swimming and dance. Participants will also fix light meals for themselves at each session, with guidance.

Referral forms for ACT! can be found online at, and should be printed off and submitted to your health care provider. ACT! is presented in partnership with the Seattle Children’s Hospital, the Everett Clinic and Providence Physicians Group.

The Marysville YMCA is located at 6420 60th Dr. NE. You can call Hardcastle at 360-653-9622 for more information.


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