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Wellness Talk: The new wellness center and our most prized possessions

As we begin to think about the potential impact of Wadena's new wellness center, which will be fully operational sometime in mid-to-late 2014, it's important to think about the potential impact this much-needed facility will have on the health and well-being of the community's children and young adults.

Our children are our most prized possessions, the best of the best of life's great blessings. But with these blessings comes tremendous responsibility.

Indeed as parents - as a community - we have the duty to see to it that our children have more opportunities than we had. What's more, we have the obligation to ensure that our kids grow up safe, protected from all of the very real dangers that confront our young people each and every day.

We also have the responsibility to make sure that our kids grow up healthy and well.

Let's face it, being a kid ain't what it used to be, and the health statistics of our nation's young people bear this out.

Consider the following two statistics alone:

• Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. In 2008, more than one third of our nation's children and adolescents were overweight or obese.

• Only 29 percent of young people surveyed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) had participated in at least 60 minutes of physical activity on seven consecutive days before they were surveyed.

On the surface, these two statistics may seem like no big deal--after all they're just kids; they'll grow out of it, right?


The fact of the matter is this: These two statistics are indeed a big deal. In fact, when it comes to the health of kids in this country, these two statistics are the main ingredients of a recipe that cooks up a disaster of epic proportion.

When we see children who are overweight and sedentary, we know for a fact they are experiencing significant increases in serious health risks like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high blood sugar. If left unchecked, these risk factors lead to very real health problems like heart disease, cancer and type II diabetes -not to mention a whole host of other health problems.

Let me remind you, we are talking about children here - our most prized possessions - and they are falling prey to diseases once considered to be reserved only for the elderly. A short three decades ago, we would have never thought this possible; there's no way these things could happen to kids.

But they are and now it's an urgent situation.

Certainly some would argue that Wadena's children (and those of the surrounding region) are different. After all, we are talking about national statistics here. Numbers that include places like inner-city New York, Los Angeles and rural Mississippi.

Truth be told, Wadena's children are different. They are at higher risk than the rest of the country in every one of these categories.

It doesn't take a sharp ear to hear thunder. If we do nothing, a large percentage of our kids - our most prized possessions - will experience tragic health consequences, ones that will plague them throughout their lives and keep communities like this one from flourishing.

So dire is the situation, health experts across the country agree that our children face a lifespan that will be far shorter than ours - not to mention a quality of life that will be severely compromised.

With the construction of the new wellness center comes a radically different future for this community's children - one of health and happiness.

With a fundraising committee comprised of a tireless group of committed citizens working hard to raise more than $10 million and other community leaders like Mayer Wolden, hospital CEO Joel Beiswenger and a vibrant community action group banding together to make sure this project happens, our kids have a chance.

Because of the wellness center, Wadena's children will have the opportunity to be active, they will have the opportunity to be healthy and they will have the opportunity to be happy.

This community's children might only comprise 25 percent of the town's population, but they are 100 percent of its future - and the new wellness center is going to be an important part of making the future a bright one for Wadena.