MIDDLETOWN, NJ: Many in Monmouth County are familiar with Camp Coconuts, a popular children's camp, where hundreds of children are immersed in a summer camp experience full of fun physical activities complimented by creative learning experiences. Camp Coconuts also has a non-profit organization; Coconuts Kids Fit Foundation (CKFF). The CKFF in addition to sponsoring a group of children the opportunity to have a Camp Coconuts experience every summer, also hosts an annual massive clothing collection for local children in need, and a toy drive delivering Christmas presents to over 400 families last year.
In June, TAPinto Holmdel & Colts Neck, was invited to join the owner of Camp Coconuts, Deana Valente as she gathered her team together to meet with 25 Goldman Sachs employees who were participating in a project with Coconuts Kids Fit Foundation, as part of the Goldman Sachs Community Team. It's 'an organization where Goldman Sachs employees donate their time to local nonprofit organizations around the world, contributing their expertise and ideas to help make a meaningful difference.' The Goldman Sachs employees, along with the Camp Coconuts team were preparing to work together to complete the finishing items for a brand new mini golf course created for Camp Coconuts, behind the I AM Fitness building.
Valente addressed the group giving a brief overview of the new plans she has for the I AM Fitness building that she owns at 205 Harmony Road, in Middletown. There is a complete renovation planned for the gym and martial arts studio as well as the pool area, exercise rooms. Relative to the meeting, Valente spoke about the plans for a 12,000 square foot space reserved for children to be called; Kids Fit Club. Valente began to talk about her Kids Fit Club mission referring to a report by The New England Journal of Medicine, which is referenced by the American Heart Association, "For the first time in two centuries, the current generation of children in America may have shorter life expectancies than their parents, due to the rapid rise in childhood obesity, shortening lifespans by as much as five years." According to the American Heart Association, obesity is the number one health concern among parents in the United States, topping drug abuse and smoking. Obesity is something very treatable and manageable, and the foundation for overall good health, yet the Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that, 'obesity in children has more than tripled since 1971.'
Valente went on to speak to the group about her mission to 'create the 12,000 sf Kids Fit Club on the I AM Fitness Middletown site, to provide healthy options in both exercise and nutrition and making them easily and affordably available to all children in the community and not just in the summer or on breaks from school, but year round.' In 2001, The Surgeon General made a call for action to 'Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity' and since that time the numbers of children with childhood obesity keeps growing. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) data from 2015-2016 nearly 1 in 5 school age children and young people ages 6-19 in the United States has obesity. That's twenty percent of our children at risk for often preventable chronic health diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems... There are also social and mental health issues that children suffer from due to obesity. For example according to the CDC, "Children with obesity are bullied and teased more than their normal weight peers and are more likely to suffer from social isolation, depression, and lower self esteem.
Valente said, "A child that is facing physical issues with obesity and then on top of that possible isolation and bullying is dealing with too much physical and mental stress. With today's technology taking over and the stress of busy lifestyles, more and more children are not interacting with peers in person. We now have added cyber bullying on top of the traditional bullying and exclusion. Kids Fit Club is designed to enable every child to reach their full potential. Spreading kindness has always been my foundation and I carry that over to every business I am involved with. Kids Fit Club is all about being kind to others and kind to ourselves. It's about taking care of our body, our mind and our spirit. I have been in the fitness business since 1985 and my mission is very simple; help others to be the best they can be."
Kids Fit Club is also going to focus on healthy snacking and understanding the importance of eating healthy and whole foods. Valente commented, "Parents want to establish healthy habits in their children and then nurture them, but it can be challenging in today's world. We are here to assist parents in providing great programs for their children including multi-faceted fitness options to address the growing epidemic of youth obesity. Kids Fit Club and our Camp Coconuts (founded along with my partner Bob Meyer) offer families the opportunity to have their children immersed in programs that provide creative and stimulating mind activities and a wide array of physical fitness fun. Realizing childhood obesity is a national health crisis in our country I am dedicated to do my best take action and bring multiple exercise and sports options to children of all ages in a convenient location at affordable prices, year round. It's about keeping fit kids fit and helping those that may be dealing with obesity to help themselves in an encouraging, caring, fun and inspirational environment."
Regarding nutritional tips for parents, TAPinto spoke with Jenny Champion, Registered Dietitian at Red Bank Family Medicine. Champion provided a few tips for parents commenting; "It's hard with everyone's busy schedules to eat healthy but making small changes can make a huge difference. First of all as a parent try your best to be a good example. Kids tend to model after their parents. Make it a 'monkey see, monkey do' situation, not 'do as I say, not as I do.' Also, keep bad foods out of the house and don't use treats as rewards. Find some time even if it's just one meal a weekend to let your children crack those eggs, and wash the fruits and vegetables. Children love to help in the kitchen and preparing healthy meals together can encourage healthier eating together."
The Goldman Sachs Community Team after being debriefed on the mission of Camp Coconuts and The Coconuts Kid Fit Foundation, walked outside to the site where the frame work was already in place for the new mini golf course. Their gift to the community was their time and labor to get the course completed in time for the summer camp to open for the summer season. All twenty five Goldman Sachs volunteers, wearing blue t-shirts broke in to groups and taking direction from Deana Valente (known to all as Coach D at Camp Coconuts) got to work; hauling boxes, staining the fences, painting the steps, securing the golf turf at every hole, hauling off debris... They worked happily and tirelessly together until every item was completed. There were times more supplies were needed and Valente rushed to the local Home Depot and Lowes to fulfill requests. There were a lot of smiles and laughter that day, completing a course that now is full everyday with children's voices and laughter as they are sharing in another great physical activity at Camp Coconuts.
Programs currently at Camp Coconuts include among others; swimming, hiking, martial arts, outdoor volleyball, wall/tree climbing, ice skating, various sports activities, bungee jumping, arts and crafts, painting, drama, singing, group dance parties, music appreciation, and more recently with the labor power of Goldman Sachs Community Team (GSCT), Camp Coconuts and the Kids Fit Club offer an outdoor golf experience.
The success of Camp Coconuts and the demand for enrollment has prompted the owner Deana Valente to focus on the Kids Fit Club where the plan is to offer among other items like homework help and healthy foods, indoor and outdoor physical fitness activities for children in a safe and fun environment year round. The plan is to make the Kids Fit Club available to every child, working with local government bodies to make it accessible for every family. Right now in her Camp Coconuts summer programs, Valente provides summer camp experiences via the nonprofit Kids Fit Foundation (Kids Fit Club) to 100 children every camp season. What this means is that currently for summer 2018, in addition to her paid enrollment, Valente sponsors during the camp season at least 100 children by gifting them an exciting, fun and healthy summer camp experience that they otherwise would not have the opportunity to participate with.
Valente says, "I love working with every child and it is a privilege for me to be able to sponsor 100 children from our community to provide them through Kids Fit Foundation sponsorships, to enjoy summer time fun together with hundreds of children in their same age groups."
The Goldman Sachs Community Team donated their time and labor to Coconuts Kid Fit Foundation because they 'realized the value the programs are bringing to the community, especially to the 100 underprivileged children that Coconuts Kid Fit Foundation sponsors every season at Camp Coconuts.' The new mini golf course is located behind the I AM Fitness building where Camp Coconuts is headquartered. Valente owner of the I AM Fitness building, is currently launching a renovation of the entire building, including creating a 12,000 square foot space for the first physical structure to house the existing programs of Kid's Fitness Club. The club when completed, will be for all of the community's children to benefit from. Valente says, "Think of a fun and safe place that every child can enjoy socializing, exercising, the arts, homework help, technology stations, zumba, yoga, math games, cardio dance, a science area, movie room, tech corner, Brazilian martial arts, etc... In education right now all the talk is about STEM and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, math). We are going to carry STEAM here at Kids Fit Club. STEAM with the E for Engineering defined as not just the creative application of science and mathematical methods, but also the engineering of our bodies with proper nutrition and exercise. The focus with be on health and from there the programs to implement are limitless. We will offer busing from the local schools to our club so that children will come to a fun safe place to partake in all of the options before mom or dad gets off the 6:30 train to pick them up to join a family dinner at home."
About Camp Coconuts:
Deana Valente is Founder and CEO of Archer Management, the umbrella company that owns I AM Fitness and The Coconuts Kid Fit Club (CKFC). Both Companies are in the health industry and focus on making a positive difference in the lives of others. Valente's goal is bringing the vision of The Kids Fit Club to fruition, which includes a 12,000 square foot facility to house the Middletown existing model, followed by implementation of additional locations of CKFC specifically in areas where children are less fortunate and have fewer options for recreation, fitness and socialization with other children in their age groups. Knowing that the business, as a franchise will appeal to health club owners and start up operators alike, the motivation stems from Valente's focus to 'help as many kids as possible.' A beta test of the concept was offered in a controlled 9 week time frame in 2012. In 2013 more fitness programs were added and the results were stellar. the 2014 season more than doubled enrollment and surpassed the 5 year goals in 3 years time. By the 2017 season Camp Coconuts had increased by over a staggering 1000 percent. Additionally now Camp Coconuts offers Camp Fitness Days to accommodate kids when schools are closed (holidays, teacher's conventions, etc.). Archer Management is ramping up to bring a new alternative option to the fitness world for children. For more information about Camp Coconuts click here.
About Goldman Sachs Community Teamworks: Community Teamworks harnesses the talent, energy and experience of the Goldman Sachs employees, to make an impact in communities where they work and live. In 2017, Goldman Sachs employees from across 51 offices in 25 countries participated in Community Teamworks projects, assisting over 700 organizations on over 1300 projects worldwide. For more information about Goldman Sachs click here.