Rezoning sought for growing children’s health program

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A local not-for-profit is requesting that a 23-acre piece of property on Indianapolis’ northwest side be rezoned to accommodate its growing children’s fitness program.

The Children’s Better Health Institute, a division of The Saturday Evening Post Society Inc., plans to ask the Metropolitan Development Commission at its Wednesday afternoon meeting to rezone the property from “dwelling” to “special use.”

The property, at 2525 W. 44th St., is near the home of local businessman Beurt SerVaas, who purchased The Saturday Evening Post in 1969 and sold it to the not-for-profit bearing the magazine’s name in 1982.

The publisher of the magazine and president of the not-for-profit is his daughter, Joan SerVaas, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday morning. But Patrick Perry, executive editor of the magazine and director of development for the not-for-profit, said the SerVaas family has used the property for children’s fitness activities for more than 30 years.

The program became more serious this summer when the health institute recruited an ROTC leader to direct its first Forever-Fit Summer Camp for kids.

“We’ve worked on many initiatives out there,” Perry said. “They’ve been sporadic in nature, and now we’re focusing on a camp we’re doing with the community.”

The health initiative also has partnered with Riley Hospital for Children, IPS and various township schools to coordinate an afterschool fitness program, he said.

The property features two tennis courts, a 200-meter track, a soccer field, basketball court, swimming pool and walking trail.

Yet, the property has never been properly zoned to host the activities, said local lawyer Timothy Ochs, who will present the rezoning request.

“As their profile increased, more and more kids [have] come out there,” Ochs said.

Riley Hospital for Children researchers tracked the weight and body mass index of the youths who participated in the summer camp. The hospital is partnering with the institute through its Pediatric OverWeight Education & Research, or POWER program, which it launched three years ago.

POWER program director Dr. Sandeep Gupta lauded the health initiative for giving children an opportunity to learn about fitness in a non-clinical setting.

“The setting is so wonderful and so serene that the families really get engaged,” he said.

Through programs such as POWER and the health initiative’s summer camp, youths can learn good eating habits in an effort to combat the growing problem of childhood obesity, Gupta said.

“I think the camp is something that will be a phenomenal resource to have in our community,” he said. “There are not many places available that do a similar service at such a low cost.”


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