FORT McCOY, Wis. Aca,!" With 16 percent of young people in the United States considered overweight, the Fort McCoy Boys & Girls Club encourages community youth to live a healthy lifestyle by conducting physical fitness activities.

Through its efforts, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) and Staples Foundation for Learning, Inc., are honoring the Fort McCoy Teen Torch Club for its program excellence in health and fitness. The club received third-place honors in this category, which carries a $500 cash prize.

Torch Clubs are chartered, small groups for Boys and Girls Club members, ages 11 to 13, which focus on the development of character and leadership skills. Under the direction of professional staff advisers, Torch Clubs help young people realize their full potential by fostering positive self-esteem and personal growth; building communication skills; reinforcing academic achievement and encouraging the development of conscientious citizenship.

"As the number of overweight children and youth in this country continues to rise at an alarming rate, it is imperative that we bring an end to this epidemic and help club members develop healthy habits and stay physically fit," said Judith Pickens, senior vice president of program and youth development services at BGCA.

The local Fort McCoy Torch Club members created a Healthy Habits Club that included different sports camps, fun fitness activities, and active volunteering. Volleyball, basketball, and fitness camps were the top three choices for the sports camps. During these camps, the youth socially interacted with each other and demonstrated character and leadership roles.

The Torch Club members also set up field trips to the bike trail, roller skating rink, and ropes course to understand the importance of being active and staying fit.

Volunteering to use the Start Smart Program and teach the Preschoolers class was a fun and interactive way the members could promote taking responsibility for everyone's well being. The youth created a kickball tournament to demonstrate that being healthy and active can be achieved through fun activities. Learning basic skills, techniques, and healthy habits that will last a lifetime was the purpose of the McCoy Healthy Habits Club.

The cash award will be used for educational/recreational items, according to Child, Youth and School Services (CYSS) staff members.

Staples Torch Club Awards are presented for the most outstanding programs developed by and implemented in Boys and Girls Clubs across the country in five categories. In addition to Health and Fitness, the categories are Education, Service to Club and Community, Social Recreation, and National Service Project.

"The creativity, talent and dedication displayed by Torch Club members to develop and implement these projects are truly inspiring," said Briana Curran, manager, Staples Foundation for Learning. "Staples Foundation for Learning supports the Torch Club program because it meets the special needs of preteens at a critical stage in their development."