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Cabin Creek Wellness Center uses 'scare tactics' to teach kids healthy habits

By Megan Workman
Kenny Kemp
Fifth-graders from Malden Elementary School looked over healthy eating options at the opening of Cabin Creek Health System's newest wellness center in Malden on Thursday.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The 250 children who walked through the Cabin Creek Wellness Center's healthy haunted house in Malden this week left with a bag full of goodies and a belly full of healthy snacks.

The first-ever "Healthy Scare" haunted house promoted not only Cabin Creek Health System's newest wellness center on Malden Drive, but also healthy living, said James Tebow, a consultant for Cabin Creek Health Systems.

Kindergarten through fifth-grade students walked through the "haunted" house, which belonged to late Mayor John Hale and was built in 1835, Tebow said.

"Hale's ghost would be 110 years old," Tebow said.

When the school-age students entered the healthy haunted house, they walked through three dark rooms.

In the first room without lights, a headless body exposed the dangers of unhealthy topics such as drunken driving, bullying and smoking, Tebow said.

Kids then walked into the second dark room, which represented a morgue.

The third dark room had "live" zombies and television screens that showed sugary drinks, cell phones and computer games.

"They got the message that if they do these unhealthy things, that unhealthy things are dark and they lead to problems," Tebow said. "Some of them said, 'My mom smokes, my dad drinks alcohol.' There's an awareness, even at a kindergarten level, with issues in the home that relate to unhealthful practices. They understand. It really is quite surprising."

Then they walked into the light, Tebow said.

Exercise equipment and stationary bicycles sat in one bright room.

Grapes, strawberries, apples, bell peppers and other fruits and vegetables strewed across a table in another light-filled room emphasized the importance of living healthy, nutritional lives, Tebow said.

On the "toxic table," processed, packaged foods - including a Halloween favorite: candy corn - represented unhealthy foods they should try to avoid, he said.

In the last bright room, each child left with a bag full of healthy goodies, such as a toothbrush, jump rope and a free membership to the new Cabin Creek Wellness Center. They also ate fresh apple slices, grapes and strawberries.

"We've hosted this primarily for the school children and to teach a health lesson. To use the house, its history and its personality to point out that health and wellness is something, if you don't pay attention, you're going to be scared," Tebow said.

Malden Elementary School students visited the healthy haunted house on its last day Thursday. Tebow said the Sandy superstorm prevented anyone from visiting the house on Monday or Tuesday.

But for the kids who did get to walk through the spooky house, they curiously looked over the chemically treated foods as well as the colorful fruits and vegetables, he said.

"It's so much color. Red peppers, yellow bananas, lemons, limes, celery, red onions. When you see the beauty of fresh produce compared to packaging food, there's such a difference on the two tables," Tebow said. "You had to imagine that if healthy things were put in front of the children on a regular basis, they would eat them."

The Cabin Creek Wellness Center, 4208 Malden Drive, will organize activities in the community, such as walking clubs or cessation classes for smoking, Tebow said. To learn more information about the new center, call the Cabin Creek Health Center at 304-595-5006.

Reach Megan Workman at megan.workman@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.


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