Families across Alaska have stories to share about how they help their own children — and their community’s children — be physically active. This summer, Play Every Day and its partner, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium
, visited two communities to help tell those stories.
We’ve talked about our visit with Nick Hanson
, the American Ninja Warrior
contestant in Unalakleet who coaches and mentors children of all ages. In June, we also visited Bethel and met the Iverson family. Watch our new TV public service announcements featuring Nick Hanson
and the Iversons
helping their communities be physically active.
Carolyn and Shane Iverson are raising three children in Bethel, a community along the Kuskokwim River. Carolyn is Yup’ik, grew up in Akiak until age 5, and has lived in Bethel for years. That’s where she met her husband, Shane. They have two boys and a girl — all under the age of 8. Carolyn is a social worker with the Lower Kuskokwim School District and Shane is the general manager for KYUK.
The Iversons are busy, but they work hard to make sure their whole family is active every day. They limit TV time and don’t have video games. They make physical activity a daily priority by finding ways to weave activity into their family’s day.
“Sometimes people think physical activity needs to be separate from their daily lives,” Carolyn said. “When you can incorporate it into your daily lifestyle, that’s when it will be easiest to maintain.”
Activity is a part of the kids’ school day. The boys do Native dance twice a week at the Yup’ik Immersion School. After school, the Iverson children play basketball, wrestle, do judo or play soccer — depending on the season. When school’s out for the summer, they pick berries or take trips to the sand pits to run around and play. They often take a boat to their fish camp so they can fish together on the river.
The Iverson family has found a way to be active and help the community be active at the same time. In the summer, Shane coaches soccer while his children play the game. During the school year, Carolyn coaches girls basketball and Shane assists. Carolyn calls physical activity a “family affair.”
“If my kids are in wrestling, then our whole family goes to wrestling,” she said. “In basketball, when we coach, our whole family goes to basketball and they’re in the gym. So any time we have somebody doing something, our whole family goes. Shane will play Ultimate Frisbee, and our kids will be playing off on the sidelines.”
Carolyn says she gives her time to help young kids because she wants them to think about the importance of being physically active. She wants to inspire them to maintain that level of activity throughout adulthood. She also wants to help them feel better about who they are, and start thinking about their goals for the future.
“We are trying to raise our kids to choose to be active and engage in things that make them feel good,” Carolyn said.
She encourages parents to join their kids in play. If your kids are playing outside, play with them. If your children are playing soccer, go with them to the soccer field. That’s what makes it more fun, she said.
This is how the Iversons are helping children in their community be physically active. What can you do in yours?