By Angela Parker
The mission of the Youthful Joy Foundation, quite simply, is to bring joy to youth through health.
Established in 2014, the organization offers physical, mental and sexual health programs for overweight and obese youth ages 4-18. The programs include healthy cooking classes, physical activity trips, grocery store and fast food store visits.
In addition, the organization partners with several schools, churches, sororities and community groups to share resources and lectures on the effects of weight on the esteem and mental health of children and teens and to offer physical activity classes.
For founder and executive director, Dr. Anjanette M. Hogan, the work is personal. As a child, she struggled with being overweight, and the effects it had on her self-esteem. However, as she matured, she learned the value of being active and having a healthy life style, and knew she wanted to share what she learned with others.
“I lived the life of an overweight child and I am well aware of the emotional and mental effects of living that life,” Dr. Hogan said. “Through the Youthful Joy Foundation, I am able to take both the personal and professional knowledge that I have and provide kids and their families a very personal approach to dealing with these issues they are facing.”
In fact, it is her intimate understanding of the complexity of the issue that ensures the organization utilizes a comprehensive approach to dealing with childhood obesity, one that goes far beyond what can be accomplished in a pediatric visit, and makes parents an integral part of the conversation.
“The parents are included in the process because it is apparent that the child relies solely on their parents in areas of health and nutrition,” Dr. Hogan said. “The parents buy the food which the child eats. The parent must be involved if the child wants to be active in sports or other physical activities. Additionally, it is more likely that overweight/obese parents yield overweight/obese children based on lifestyle and genetics.”
Dr. Hogan hopes that this inclusive approach will light a spark in a youth who may not understand their behavior is putting their health at risk.
“I see so many children who are struggling with being overweight or obese,” Dr. Hogan said. “Many of the stories are the same, they enjoy eating too much of the wrong foods and preferred to sit in the house and watch TV or play video games rather than go outside and play.
“Despite this, it does do my heart well when I see the smiles on the face of a child participating in a healthy cooking class or when I am able to answer the questions of the youngsters when we are out at a grocery store visit.”
It is these small victories that keep Dr. Hogan committed to spreading the word about the organization’s programs and raising the funds needed to provide more services to more kids struggling with obesity nationwide.
“The effects of being an overweight or obese child can carry on into a lifetime of struggles, both physically and mentally,” Dr. Hogan said. “This epidemic will never be dealt with unless we go out there and discuss the challenges we face and search for solutions. It is the goal of the Youthful Joy Foundation to get out there and continue the fight against childhood obesity.”
Name of organization: Youthful Joy Foundation
Founder: Dr. Anjanette M. Hogan
Years in operation: Four
This article originally appeared in the Wave Newspapers.