Written by Barb Powell
Hundreds of United Church of Christ National Youth Event (NYE) delegates converged on Memorial Mall in the center of the Purdue University campus Friday afternoon to celebrate all things healthy at the Faith, Fit and Fun Extravaganza.
Under a huge tent, which provided some protection from the blazing sun and 90-degree heat, teens slurped Italian ices and got their faces painted, pressed on tattoos, made Christmas cards for troops in Afghanistan and built churches out of Legos.
The Safe I Am distracted driving simulator attracted the attention of Michael Schrader of Buffalo, N.Y. "I'm 14 so I’ve never driven a real car but I think that was very life-like," he said. "Dogs jump out into the road. You've got to be able to react."
Three Connecticut teens placed blue disks on Smoking Prevention Bingo cards while Doris Powell of the national staff read the winning squares, and Katie Blair of Connecticut put the fifth disk in a row on the Tobacco Facts column to win a bracelet. Katie offered an emphatic "no" when asked if she had ever smoked. "And I wouldn’t ever."
Did she learn anything from the game? "I hadn't realized all the ways that people are trying to prevent people from starting to smoke."
Crowds paused at the table where the sugar concentrations in popular drinks were compared. A 42-ounce supersized soft drink carries 500 calories and 31 teaspoons of sugar! And you can't imagine how gross five pounds of fat and a year's worth of cigarette tar can be just sitting there in a jar.
Around the corner, Hannah Hansen of Billings, Mont., was directing a crafts project in which teens made nametags from circles of wood at the Outdoor Ministries table. "I've been going to camp since the fifth or sixth grade, and this is one of the first things we always do — make name tags," she said.
Why does she go to camp? "For the people I meet, the friends I make. And there’s a place at my camp called The Place Most High. It’s where I feel closest to God."
Out on the lawn, next to a pickup volleyball game, Karly Johnson and her Frederick, Md., friends were "fringe-ing" their Faith-In T-shirts. "They were way too big, so we cut slits along the side seams and then tied the pieces together to make a fringe."
While a circle of dancers were moving to the beat of a Taiko drum, Houston friends Erin Jaroszewski and Rajinee Buquing swiveled their hula hoops to the same rhythm. They were clearly not first-timers. "I learned at church camp a long time ago," Erin said.
On the sidewalk leading into Memorial Mall, Trevor Pope of Riverside, Calif., set out his colored chalk and started to tag the spot with the logo of "T-Pop," his rapper name. He'd had to move away from the crowds to find room for his art.