Mayo, YMCA offer camp for overweight children

Published 5:25 pm Sunday, April 10, 2016

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. — Registration is open for Camp Wabi, a typical summer camp, but with a slight twist.

The camp is for kids entering sixth through 10th grades who struggle with their weight. In addition to swimming in a lake and singing by the campfire, Wabi campers also receive healthy lifestyle coaching for one hour a day by specialists in nutrition, behavior therapy, psychology and exercise physiology. Kids also participate in traditional camp activities, such as canoeing, fishing, kayaking and choose from hobbies, such as arts and crafts, archery, basketball, cooking and dancing.

Parental involvement is essential to help children overcome weight issues, notes Mayo Clinic Health System pediatrician John Plewa, M.D., Camp Wabi medical director. Before camp starts, parents learn how to help their camper live a healthier lifestyle at home. After camp, parents receive materials to keep kids on course. Camp staff is available throughout the year, and parents and campers track progress at two reunions.

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Mayo Clinic Health System and the YMCA of Eau Claire, Wisconsin joined together in 2011 to offer Camp Wabi on Long Lake, near New Auburn, Wisconsin, as a way to address the growing childhood obesity problem.

On average, campers lose about 8 pounds in the time they are at Camp Wabi, but it’s not a boot camp. Campers eat three healthy meals and two snacks a day for a total of 1,800 calories.

“We work with each camper as a whole person,” says Dr. Plewa, who lives at camp with the campers and counselors, and joins in with everything from tetherball to Zumba. “Wabi is a positive, nonthreatening environment where campers will be active, make friends, eat well and learn new skills to live a healthy lifestyle.”

The 2016 Camp Wabi dates are July 31 through Aug. 12.

For information, call 715-836-8460, go to or stop in at the Eau Claire YMCA, 700 Graham Ave. Financial assistance is available.