A Publication of WTVP

Growing Up Strong
by Samantha Foster

CrossFit, the fitness obsession that’s exploded in popularity, is starting to make its mark on the younger generation with CrossFit Kids—a modified program for children ages three to 18.

So, what exactly is CrossFit? It’s a broad fitness regimen based around constantly varied, functional movements performed at high intensity, which aims to prepare trainees for any physical contingency. There are more than 6,000 CrossFit gyms—or “boxes,” as they are commonly known—in the U.S. and seven in the Peoria area, two of which offer programs geared toward children.

CrossFit Kids focuses on mechanics, consistency and intensity, emphasizing movements for children to carry into adolescence. Scalable for any age or skill level, it’s a fun way for children to stay active and improve their health. The movements involved include all the things kids do when they play—push, pull, run, throw, climb, lift and jump. Many of the operations of adult CrossFit are carried over to the kid’s level, but at a smaller scale. Kids under 13 do not use weights, but can still perform many of the movements with the substitution of a PVC pipe. Light weights are added as they become teenagers, and wall balls, box jumps, jump ropes, running and gymnastics are all part of the kid-based program.

Programs like those at CrossFit East Peoria and CrossFit North Peoria work with kids in disciplines ranging from weightlifting to calisthenics to gymnastics. “The benefits… can be long-lasting for children, both physically and mentally,” explains CrossFit East Peoria owner Patty Atherton. “CrossFit can be a great base for kids to carry into other sports and also develop them as healthy, fit human beings.”

A typical kids’ class consists of a warm-up, skill learning, a workout and a game. Warm-ups vary from relay races to jump ropes to acrobatics; skill learning includes push-ups, pull-ups, squats and other exercises; and workouts follow the same concept as adult classes, including constantly varied, functional movements. Arron McCall of CrossFit North Peoria likes to end each session with a game that cannot be played on an iPad or Xbox, such as dodgeball or kickball.

CrossFit Kids promotes a lifelong love of fitness by showing children how being active can also be fun. They can try new activities, learn proper techniques and have positive interactions with other children—and no two sessions are ever the same, ensuring they’ll never get bored.

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Transforming Lives and Local Theater

by Julie Gray

Once a year in January, a transformation takes place at Eastlight Theatre in East Peoria through a program called the Penguin Project. A group of young people, ages eight to 21, graces the stage to perform a modified version of a Broadway musical. The production is unique in that all of the roles are filled by youth with developmental disabilities, including Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism, intellectual and learning disabilities, visual and hearing impairments, and other neurological disorders.

The actors and actresses, referred to as “penguins,” are joined on stage by “peer mentors”—a group of young people the same age without disabilities—who work with the penguins and guide them through four months of rehearsals and the final production. The end result is a celebration of the ability of any child to succeed when given encouragement, support and opportunity.

“By providing access to community theater, the Penguin Project demonstrates that the special challenges of a disability do not need to handicap a child’s ability to participate in life’s experiences,” says Dr. Andy Morgan, Penguin Project director. “The talents of these children have far surpassed all expectations, concluding in a professional, entertaining theater experience. Our penguins may not be able to fly, but that does not prevent their spirits from soaring.”

The Penguin Project celebrates its 11th anniversary with an exciting production of Seussical Jr. that will be performed January 23-25, 2015. Horton the Elephant, the Cat in the Hat, and all of Dr. Seuss’ favorite characters will spring to life onstage in this fantastic musical extravaganza.

The show will be held at 7:30pm on Friday and Saturday evenings and 2pm on Sunday afternoon. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for youth, with a $1 per-ticket service charge for online orders at Student tickets are available through the box office at 309-699-SHOW (7469). For more information on the Penguin Project, visit

A Prime Relocation

Cullinan Properties will soon overlook East Peoria’s Levee District—an area it has developed aggressively for more than a decade. In early 2015, the firm will relocate its headquarters to GEM Terrace in East Peoria, with plans to rename it Cullinan Properties. Built in 2007, the five-story building occupies 26,000 square feet and is a prominent feature along I-74 with its glass exterior.

The move results from a 2010 agreement with the City of East Peoria for Cullinan Properties to relocate its headquarters to the Levee District. “Due to the success of the Levee District, though, there was no property for us to develop,” explains Lelonie Luft, Cullinan Properties director of marketing. “This location was the next-best thing.”

Anchored by Target, Costco and Gordmans, the Levee District features a mix of retail, restaurant, office and lodging space, including Holiday Inn and Suites, Fondulac District Library and Clock Tower Place—home of the East Peoria Chamber of Commerce, Hometown Community Banks and Heinold Banwart—as well as a variety of restaurants.

For the past few years, Cullinan’s corporate headquarters has been housed temporarily in Independence Square off War Memorial Drive in Peoria, but Luft explains the business has outgrown that space. She adds that the move was not about being located in East Peoria versus Peoria. Rather, when Gary Matthews, local developer and owner of GEM Terrace, announced his semi-retirement, the company recognized it as an opportunity to move to a larger space in conjunction with their prior agreement to relocate to East Peoria. “Our objective is to stay centrally located,” Luft says, “and … the move just made sense.”

Aside from its Peoria-area headquarters, Cullinan Properties has offices in Chicago and St. Louis and has developed properties across the country, from St. Charles, Missouri to Atlanta, Georgia. Luft says area residents can look forward to continued developments in the Levee District and at Grand Prairie, where the company has played a key role in reshaping north Peoria.

Something to Bark About

Man’s best friend may soon be his best training partner, too. Set for release in early 2015, MyFitDog is the first collaborative, two-piece exercise measurement product for dog and dog owner—the owner wears one device, the dog wears the other on its collar, and their collective activity is tracked.

Because people tend to do what they measure, explains Phil Lockwood, MyFitDog president and chief operating officer, the device offers extra motivation to get physically active. “Any kind of lifestyle or wellness change program is best achieved when there is joint accountability,” he adds, noting a correlation between obese dog owners and their dogs. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, more than half of dogs in the U.S. are overweight or obese.

Lockwood explains that financial and technological forces have made now an opportune time to develop and launch such a product. “With the explosion of wearable technologies, we’re hoping we can capture some of that growth,” he says. Initially funded in part through a Kickstarter campaign, MyFitDog met its $30,000 goal by promoting the collaborative health benefits of the wearable technology. With its imminent launch, Lockwood says fundraising will expand into more traditional routes, such as angel investor groups.

A free MyFitDog iPhone app is available from the Apple Store, while development of an Android app is underway. Rather than overwhelming users with features immediately upon purchase, Lockwood says they will essentially earn additional features through their activity: the more active one is, the more features that can be accessed. MyFitDog will launch in a “small and targeted fashion” with a pair of devices costing $99. The company plans to explore a variety of sales channels, including direct online sales and placement in specialty retail stores. Peoria’s Running Central will be the first retailer in the world to carry the product; the company is also exploring relationships with veterinarians and high-end pet retailers.

In the future, the company aims to create a complete portfolio of products to address the canine fitness market, from a weight-sensored dogbowl integrated with the activity-tracking device to an everyday-use electrocardiogram for dogs. “We see a unique opportunity to target both people and dogs,” says Lockwood, “working to get them moving together.”

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Evolving Childcare Roles

“Daddy Daycare” is becoming a reality for more American families, with fathers spending nearly five more hours per week on childcare and housework than they did in 1965, according to a White House Council of Economic Advisors report. In addition, fathers increasingly believe that employer-provided, paid paternity leave is important, according to a study from the Boston College Center for Work and Family. Among millennial men, 93 percent indicated that paid paternal leave was important. A Pew report shows that stay-at-home dads now number more than two million, and 37 percent of married women with children are the primary breadwinners in their households.

Cities Attract Millennials
A recent edition of Census Explorer reports that the Provo-Orem, Utah, MSA has the highest share of Americans under 35; it’s also the most religious metro area in the United States. Those wanting to live in an area with a large percentage of young college graduates should move to Boston. Looking for love? Springfield, Massachusetts has the highest share of young single people among top MSAs, with Buffalo, New York ranking second. Those searching for jobs should head to the Midwest, which boasts six of the top 10 cities in which young people are most likely to have jobs: Des Moines, Omaha, Madison, Minneapolis, Kansas City and Milwaukee. Visit to explore the data yourself.

Neighborly Connections
Harness the power of social media to connect with your neighbors! Nextdoor, a social networking site based on neighborhoods, allows neighbors to connect on everything from crime and lost pets to babysitting recommendations, local events and much more. Since its 2011 launch, the California-based company has grown to include more than 43,000 neighborhoods, including many within the City of Peoria. Create an account at to see if your neighborhood has been mapped yet. iBi