YMCA of Southern Maine

For a Better Us.™

Youth in Motion

Childhood obesity is an increasingly common issue, especially in Maine, where more than 28% of youth are overweight or obese. Obesity during youth increases the risk for life-long physical and social-emotional problems, but these risks can be reduced or reversed with intervention We believe in giving youth their best opportunity to live healthy lives in a safe, nurturing environment.

Our Youth in Motion program is helping to reverse the trend of increasing childhood obesity.  We work directly with Maine Medical Center's Countdown to a Healthy ME program to get overweight youth excited about increasing physical activity and building a new healthy lifestyle. Participants are matched with Y Mentors, who build positive relationships with them and engage them in physical activity. Mentors broaden their young mentees’ experiences by exposing them to a variety of physical activities based on their interests while making accommodations specific to their needs. For example, if a child is nervous about exercising in front of their peers, our Mentors will work with them in a less visible area or at another branch to help overcome this barrier.

Youth in Motion is a free, 12- week program and includes a 12-week family membership to encourage healthy family time.

This program is offered exclusively in partnership with Maine Medical Center’s Countdown to a Health ME. Anyone interested in participating must be referred by Maine Medical Center. For more information visit https://mainehealth.org/maine-medical-partners/practices/pediatric-specialty-care/countdown-to-healthy-me


Lee and Lorann were worried about their 11-year old son Elijah. “His doctor told us that his triglycerides were too high and we feared he’d develop prediabetes. We knew we needed to make a change,” Lee explained. When the family’s pediatrician recommended they seek support from Countdown to a Healthy ME, the Y’s partner in Youth in Motion, the family jumped at the opportunity.

Elijah was introduced to his mentor Peter, a longtime wellness coach at the Y. It was a slow start. “He really didn’t like going to the Y at first,” Lee explained. But, it got easier each week, and as Elijah and Peter built trust, Elijah’s outlook changed, too. By the end of the summer, he was at the Y several times a week, even taking a karate class. Lee notices the difference in Elijah, “He’s been real diligent. He’s done a great job.”

Elijah isn’t the only family member benefiting from Youth in Motion. Lee brings his daughter Ella to the Y, too, and the family works out together. It’s working — Elijah’s health indicators have improved, dad lost weight, and Ella is more active now, too.

With these physical changes, Elijah is also finding new confidence. Lee says that his son is excited to go back to school this fall, something he didn’t think possible. Like many overweight children, “Elijah was teased a lot.” Getting the teacher he wanted helps, but Lee reports that Elijah is also doing better emotionally. Lee has some advice for parents of children facing similar challenges. “Make sure as a parent you get involved, too. It’s not just ‘do as I say,’ but also ‘do as I do.’ Parents should be using the time their child is in Youth in Motion to work on their own health, too.”


This program is generously support by the Anthem Foundation.