Photo by David Slone, Times-Union
The K21 Health Foundation and the Baker Youth Club held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday afternoon for BYC’s new ExerGame room. Pictured (L to R) are, front row: BYC Program Director Tamara Drake; K21 President and CEO Rich Haddad; BYC Executive Director Tracy Furnivall; back row: BYC Board of Directors members Jake Furbee, Joel Wihebrink, Dr. Rachael Hoffert and Robin Brown.
Photo by David Slone, Times-Union The K21 Health Foundation and the Baker Youth Club held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday afternoon for BYC’s new ExerGame room. Pictured (L to R) are, front row: BYC Program Director Tamara Drake; K21 President and CEO Rich Haddad; BYC Executive Director Tracy Furnivall; back row: BYC Board of Directors members Jake Furbee, Joel Wihebrink, Dr. Rachael Hoffert and Robin Brown.
It just got easier for local kids to enjoy gaming while getting the exercise they need.

Monday afternoon, the Baker Youth Club had a ribbon-cutting ceremony with the K21 Health Foundation for BYC’s new ExerGame room. It features a series of activities designed to promote physical activity in a gaming environment, according to BYC.

The foosball, pingpong and pool tables at the club previously were removed to transform the space into an “engaging interactive environment.”

“We’re just super excited. We’re very thankful for K21. We think the kids will be super excited and we’re just thankful for K21’s involvement,” said BYC Executive Director Tracy Furnivall before the ceremony Monday. “Kids already walk out of here sweating. I can’t wait to see how sweaty they’ll be now.”

The ExerGame room will house five games blending exercise activities with digital gaming:

• iStep Four Dance gets Club members moving to dance steps with up to four club members participating.

• The T-Wall 32 challenges users to touch 32 lighted squares in a variety of activities.

• Three Kick engages club members with three boxing bags that light up areas to touch in a timed manner.

• Heavy Ball challenges kids by lifting heavy balls into cylinders, testing strength and lateral movement.

• Two Exer-bikes incorporate Xbox 360 video gaming systems that can only be powered up and played when the user is pedaling the bike, the release states.

In the past, BYC limited screen time for video games on personal devices.





Dr. Rachael Hoffert, BYC board member, said the interactive gaming will help get kids physically fit. “It’s just another way to engage the kids when they’re here,” she said.

When he was growing up, K21 President and CEO Rich Haddad said his recreational activities included playing basketball, then afterward playing board games to relax. That doesn’t happen with children today. But by combining gaming and physical exercise, he said BYC has taken a big step forward.

“This is a win-win. It’s providing options for kids. It’s a big win for Baker Youth Club, and it’s a big win for K21,” Haddad said.

The ExerGame room was opened to students for the first time at 3 p.m. Monday. A STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) lab and an art studio will be the next two rooms opened in the coming weeks. Then from noon to 2 p.m. Nov. 14, BYC will host a community open house for the public to see all three rooms.

BYC staff started looking at other youth clubs in northern Indiana about a year ago to generate ideas for new program options in Warsaw.

“We gained a lot from visiting other facilities – specifically what is working for those facilities and what they have learned over time,” Furnivall said in a news release. “We came back to our board with a plan to expand our programs in a three-pronged approach – an ExerGame room, a STEM lab and an art studio.”

BYC approached K21 for a grant to fund the ExerGame room.

“Replacing more traditional board and table games with those that include technology, movement and contests will result in more kids being active every day,” Haddad said in the release. “The K21 Board enthusiastically supported this for the future health and activity of our kids in Kosciusko County.”

A dedicated staff member will organize the ExerGame room activities for the kids at the club. It will be available to BYC members during regular hours Monday through Thursday.

The activity schedule will allow access on alternate days to kindergarten through third-grade members and fourth- through sixth-grade members to ensure the appropriate activities for each age level, according to the release.