In battle against chronic disease, Mayor’s Fitness Council designates first healthy event

CORPUS CHRISTI — In ongoing efforts to battle chronic disease in Corpus Christi, the Mayor’s Fitness Council designated its first healthy event, the It’s Your Life Foundation 5K Walk and Run, which met the council’s stringent criteria.

As part of its changing strategy to shed the city’s Fattest City label and make the city a healthier place to live, the fitness council earlier this year announced incentives to improve health and wellness, including waiving park rental fees for up to three events per year that meet strict requirements: Smoking must be banned, unhealthy foods are prohibited, and participants must be offered healthy eating tips.

Proceeds raised by the 5K will go toward promoting the foundation’s two initiatives, an anti-tobacco program that educates children about the hazards of tobacco, and a program to combat childhood obesity.

The 5K will be held 7:45 a.m. April 26 at Cole Park. Entry is free for children ages 4 to 17 and $30 for adults.



Rachel Denny Clow/Caller-Times Zoya Surani, 13 (left), and Leslie Salomon, 16, presenters of the iConquer Chews Wisely dance with students at Yeager Elementary School in October during a presentation. Students from Carroll High School and Baker Middle School use puppets, songs and food tastings as teaching tools for healthy eating habits to curb obesity and diabetes.

CORPUS CHRISTI — A group of middle and high school students are helping kids fight off bad eating habits taking the message of healthy eating into elementary schools.

Yeager Elementary kindergartners recently learned about better eating habits and diabetes risks through theiConquer: Chews Wisely program, which is funded solely by a parent of some group members.

Students from Carroll High School and Baker Middle School use puppets, songs and food tastings as teaching tools. The group of girls, in which three are sisters, also associate their first names with fruits or vegetables so their monikers can resonate with the younger students.

Many kindergartners first considered candy a healthy food option at the start of the program, which began in schools this year as part of the nonprofit organization It’s Your Life Foundation.

“They didn’t know it was bad for them,” said Sara Surani, a Carroll senior who is part of the program’s team.

That changed by the third meeting.

“What leads to diabetes?” group members asked the 41 kindergartners in October as they gathered in the school cafeteria.

“Candy!” students yelled in unison.

The program also emphasizes the importance of students exercising and eating fruit and vegetables to make strides in preventing diabetes.

Celestine Barnes, 5, said she tried carrots for the first time during an October visit.

“They were healthy,” she said after clearing her plate, which also had other foods, such as grapes, apple slices and cheese cubes.

Group members said they rely on the fact that students are at an age where they absorb information quickly and maybe they will share what they learn with their families.


Yeager Elementary School Presentation

Rachel Denny Clow/Caller-Times Yeager Elementary School kindergarten students Emylei Head (left) and Dalena Dunn, both 5, try a healthy snack of a cracker, cheese, grape and carrot during an iConquer Chews Wisely presentation by Corpus Christi Independent School District students in October.

“It really makes a difference to know that we inspired one kid,” said Saherish Surani, a Carroll freshman and Sara Surani’s sister.

The program also inspired one of its own members, Leslie Salomon, who plays an active role in her family’s health.

Her 13-year-old brother, Jacob, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 3 years old, and she has a grandmother diagnosed with Type 2. Salomon used to be a key caregiver for her grandmother.

Salomon, a 17-year-old Carroll junior, buys the groceries for her immediate family and often opts for healthier foods, such as lean chicken and greens.

She said her family started cutting meal portion sizes and eating healthier after her brother’s Type 1 diagnosis.

Salomon, who often helps her brother count carbohydrates, said childhood diabetes affects the whole family.

“It’s basically, like, a parasite,” she said. “It takes over everything.”

Salomon’s father, Ray, 37, said he has relatives with Type 2 diabetes who have vision problems, limb amputations and loss of teeth as a result of the disease.

“It’s kind of bad,” he said, adding he makes sure his children routinely get screened for risk factors.

He said a family has to work together to stay active and eat healthier.

“It’s a team effort, he said, “on everyone’s part.”


Surani Trio

Channel 3 Metv kiii Corpus Christi; Surani trio talking about healthy community and diabetes prevention
Channel 3 Metv kiii Corpus Christi; Surani trio talking about healthy community and diabetes prevention

It’s Your Life

Representatives of 10 local nonprofits sign an agreement on Friday with Citgo’s Hands for Hillcrest program, which will benefit residents in the Hillcrest and Washington-Coles neighborhoods — the nearest fence line community to the petrochemical refinery. Citgo has pledged $1.5 million to assist the community during the next three years. About $500,000 will go to the nonprofits during the next year to help pay for education, job skills training, health and environmental programs in the neighborhoods.


It’s Your Life

CORPUS CHRISTI — A neighborhood that has been in decline for years is expected to receive a community boost to improve literacy, education, job skills training, healthy habits and energy efficiency at home. Citgo Petroleum Corp. on Friday unveiled the names of 10 local nonprofits that during the next year each will get a portion of a $500,000 grant for programs that benefit Hillcrest and Washington-Coles residents. The grant funds are a part of a $1.5 million pledge Citgo gave this past May, known as Hands for Hillcrest, to work with nonprofit groups to help the community, which is its nearest fence line neighbor.”This is part of our unwavering promise that we will support this neighborhood and commit to the fullest,” Citgo spokesman Larry Elizondo said during a news conference at the Oveal Williams Senior Center. Hillcrest and Washington-Coles are neighborhoods rich in history and are some of the city’s oldest, as development began in 1927. Some say the decline began in the 1950s at the start of construction to build Interstate 37, which cut through the neighborhood and divided it from the rest of the city. While many residents moved away, many of those who remain are passionate and have fought for years to keep the neighborhood from slipping into urban decay. In recent years, they have tried to reverse the rough reputation it has gained.The neighborhood has a higher high school dropout rate and concentration of poverty than Corpus Christi’s average. Early education, adult literacy and mentoring programs for children in school are a part of the focused efforts with the Citgo grant. Corpus Christi Literacy Council plans to work with adults in the neighborhood to improve their reading skills and also help residents gain the training they need to get a job, including interview skills.About 120 children in the neighborhood, age 5 and younger, will be eligible for a program facilitated by United Way called Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, a program that which mails an age-appropriate book to the kids each month.”It will be the beginning of their own library,” said Catrina Wilson, president and CEO of United Way of the Coastal Bend. The nonprofit is helping implement several education programs in the neighborhood as a part of the grant, she added. Northside homeowners, those who are elderly, disabled and low-income will be given priority for a weatherization program run by Nueces County Community Action Agency. The group will spend an estimated $7,000 per home to retrofit each house with energy efficient items. That could include insulation, LED light bulbs, roof repairs and other improvements to help keep a house cool when it’s hot outside and warm when it’s cold outside, Agency CEO Joe A. Martinez said. He expects the program within the neighborhood to kickoff in the next month.Community in Schools will work with about 85 high school students who live in the neighborhood and attend Miller High School, to help them stay enrolled. The assistance could include purchasing caps and gowns for seniors, providing vouchers for students who need eyeglasses and home visits.”We are trying to help remove barriers that prevent them from being successful in the classroom,” said Gloria Taylor, executive director of Community in Schools of the Coastal Bend.An ongoing improvement effort in the neighborhood will include Citgo volunteers will lead an ongoing effort to improve the appearance of the neighborhood, which could include picking up trash, mowing grass, painting homes and any other assistance residents request, he said. Citgo did not specify how money much each nonprofit would receive for their programs.

The following organizations received a collective $500,000 from Citgo to spend on programs that benefit the Northside community comprised of the Hillcrest and Washington-Coles neighborhoods.

Big Brothers & Big Sisters
Communities in Schools of the Coastal Bend
Corpus Christi Literacy Council
It’s Your Life Foundation
LEAD First Foundation
Mary McLeod Bethune Day Nursery
Mission of Mercy
United Way of the Coastal Bend
YWCA Corpus Christi
Nueces County Community Action Agency

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Contributed photo The Surani family of Corpus Christi works together to help youths with public health issues. Most recently their It’s Your Life Foundation has won awards for a 3-D animated film they plan to use to help teens understand the risks of sleep deprivation. From left are: Zoya Surani, Saherish Surani, Salim Surani, Zehra Surani and Sara Surani.

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