Annual wellness night gets families get off the couch and their devices

Kids get moving during a game of four-square at a family wellness night onThursday, Jan. 26, 2017, at Landstuhl Elementary/Middle School in Landstuhl, Germany.


By JENNIFER H. SVAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 27, 2017

LANDSTUHL, Germany — One way to motivate families to exercise together in the dead of winter is to hold an event indoors that makes physical activity more about having fun than actual work.

And make it free.

For nine years, that formula has worked for the Landstuhl Elementary/Middle School’s wellness committee.

Despite Germany’s frosty weather, hundreds of students and their families turned out Thursday for the group’s annual family wellness night, with support from the Landstuhl Parents, Teachers and Students Association and many military, school and community volunteers.

The committee was formed to address wellness in the schools, said Sandra Merchat, a physical education teacher at Landstuhl and key event organizer.

“We really felt the need, not just for our students but for our staff (and) to branch out to the families, to say we think this is important, we hope you think this is important and we’re here in partnership with you,” she said. “We want to get people out on a cold day, come out and get physically active and have fun.”

The two-hour event promoted health with a mix of games, sports, crafts, demonstrations, information tables and nutritious food.

“Everything is free, which is so cool,” Merchat said.

Student volunteers at the door handed families a “passport,” which listed 53 different activities spread throughout the school’s corridors and rooms.

Free chair massages by therapists were especially popular with teens and parents, while a parade of little feet shook up the bouncy castle in the cafeteria most of the night.

Elsewhere, Irish dancers tapped madly in the band room, kids raced their parents on seated scooters in the gymnasium, and in the library, books served as a backdrop for families completing a fitness challenge.

Chess was another activity. Although eighth-grader Caleb Thomas managed to play a game without breaking a sweat, he saw health benefits to it nevertheless.

“Chess is fun” he said. “It’s kind of a mental wellness thing.”


Strawberry smoothies were a big hit at the family wellness night Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017, at Landstuhl Elementary/Middle School in Landstuhl, Germany. Serving up the fruity drinks were members of the youth leadership group, the Torch Club, from, right to left, William Reed, Iyanna Wilson, and Olivia Reed.

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