Philly Rising: Camp Excellence helps the whole kid by making healthy lifestyles fun

Camp Excellence
Through her summer camp, Jiana Murdic is making healthy and wholistic living more accessible and fun at a time when kids could use it the most. Photo credit Jiana Murdic

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — With COVID-19 still a threat, and distance learning becoming the norm, the pandemic has been a hard time for a lot of kids.

Jiana Murdic has found a way to combine her role as an educator with her passion for wellness that makes health lifestyles more accessible and fun for toung people — at a time when they could use it the most.

Camp Excellence hosted dozens of West Philly kids in Malcolm X Park. COVID-19 restrictions kept them outdoors. They got to immerse themselves in a holistic lifestyle — a way of living that benefits the whole person — through learning and practicing plant-based eating habits and meditation, and engaging with nature.

Children are instructed in yoga at Camp Excellence in Malcolm X Park in West Philadelphia.
Children are instructed in yoga at Camp Excellence in Malcolm X Park in West Philadelphia. Photo credit Jiana Murdic

"It’s all about arts and wellness and really tapping into how healthy lifestyles help light up our creative center," said Murdic, "and really using all of these tools to manifest our our best selves."

Murdic says it’s also a method for healing for kids who have experienced so much trauma in the last year from the pandemic and other societal issues.

"I felt like this year they just were very happy to play and run. Their favorite thing to do is play on the playground, because they haven’t played on a playground in like a year and a half, especially with friends. So they were super receptive."

Camp Excellence is part of Murdic’s nonprofit, Get Fresh Daily, founded nearly five years ago. The organization works with children and communities to build out healthy, culturally relevant programs that serve the Black community, Murdic says.

"The real focus is on plant-based eating, plant-based lifestyles," she said.

She says communities of color suffer disproportionately from chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and several forms of cancer. COVID-19 has further revealed these health disparities, underlying conditions that can mean the difference between life and death.

Kids row a boat at Camp Excellence
The camp was offered to families at a cost more affordable than most summer camps. Photo credit Jiana Murdic

She says teaching healthy lifestyles offers a solution to those statistics and the healing that Philadelphia communities need.

The camp was offered to families at a cost more affordable than most summer camps. Murdic says she went without her own salary to help keep the cost low for families, because it's what the community needed.

Boys play at Camp Excellence
Murdic says the plant-based lifestyle she teaches is a way to heal kids who have experienced trauma during the pandemic year. Photo credit Jiana Murdic

She says Get Fresh Daily has more plans in store to expand programming in the coming months in the area of 52nd and Pine streets.

"We’re building out a beautiful destination for wellness right there in the heart of West Philadelphia," she said. "It is going to be a site where we’re going to have a lot of the dynamic programs that people know us for: yoga and mindfulness, the Afro vibes, dancing, things like that.

"In addition to having plant-based food options available, we’re going to be doing food, fresh fruit and vegetable distributions, that are free and open to the community. Then our plant-based food box is going to be coming in October."

People can stay connected through the Get Fresh Daily website or Instagram.