An expansive estate on the near-Northwestside

is making good on a long-standing promise to open its doors to the broader

community as The Fitness Farm, a nonprofit focused on reducing

childhood obesity.

"This was Mom's vision," says Joan SerVaas,

camp director and president and publisher of The Saturday Evening Post.

"Our goal was always to take this property and devote it to children's

health."

That goal of Dr. Corey SerVaas, the former

publisher of The Post, and her

husband, longtime City-County Council President BuertSerVaas, was once the

cause of controversy. Criticism of the family's transfer of this property to

not-for-profit corporations they controlled, while apparently still deriving

substantial personal use of the property and its facilities, was the subject of

a feature article in this publication("Beurt's Backyard," March 16-23,

2000).

The SerVaas estate is now abuzz with the

activities once limited to drawing-board concepts. Now in its second year of

operation, the Forever-Fit summer camp

is helping children to shed weight and body mass and learn habits that will

hopefully lead to healthier lifestyles.

The morning scene at Forever-Fit Summer Camp is almost identical to one

playing out at other day camps all around the community. About three dozen kids sit at several tables in a large airy

dining hall, eating breakfast, laughing, and discussing the day's plans for bike

riding, tennis, and a hike.

A few signs betray this camp's special mission. The calories for the

morning's breakfast — English muffin, cantaloupe, eggs

— are written on a flip chart at the front of the hall, all the easier

for the kids to record the food into their daily meal and exercise journals. Later in the day, the adjoining kitchen

area will host the campers' parents for a nutrition seminar and a cooking demonstration.

Almost all of the kids here at the 24-acre Fitness Farm are coping with

weight issues. Forever-Fit is designed to help them

and their families adjust their lifestyle and eating habits.

"The epidemic of childhood obesity is mind-boggling," Dr. Sandeep

Gupta

, director of Riley Hospital for Children's POWER Program and a

consultant to the camp, said. "This epidemic can't be addressed in a

hospital or doctor's office, it has to be addressed in the community."

Gupta's research on the Forever-Fit camp strategies is

scheduled to be published in a scientific journal in a few months.

The six-week camp, staffed in part by dieticians and

fitness experts, is sponsored by the Saturday Evening Post Society and Children's

Better Health Institute. The camp caters to children aged 8-12 and its

$100-per-week cost is often offset by financial assistance.

The SerVaas-founded organizations have plans

to build an indoor swimming pool and fitness center on the grounds that already

host an outdoor pool, tennis courts, a soccer field, and pens for chickens—the

source of the morning's eggs. The Post

is also publishing a book for kids on nutrition and fitness.

After breakfast, the campers jog onto the sprawling lawn of the

property, first going through an exercise routine and a hike led by IUPUI ROTC members, then breaking

into groups for games of tennis and four-square. Two girls rush over to show off

a baby frog they found on their hike. Parents routinely walk a mile around the

grounds with their kids before they head home at the end of the day. One Mom even

stopped by before work to play tennis with her son.

"This keeps him active—and me, too," she said, wiping

some sweat from her brow. "The folks here really help us all be aware of

fitness and nutrition issues, not as much because it is a weight issue but

because it is a lifelong health issue."

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