Nutley youngsters celebrate Bernie’s birthday

 At a birthday party for Bernie on Saturday, Jan. 9, are, from left, friends Eden Cruz, Samantha Allotry and Elana Cruz, during the festivities at the health department.
At a birthday party for Bernie on Saturday, Jan. 9, are, from left, friends Eden Cruz, Samantha Allotry and Elana Cruz, during the festivities at the health department.

NUTLEY, NJ — When dozens of children came out on Saturday, Jan. 9, to visit the Nutley Department of Public Health, something was clearly happening.

The 60 children in attendance Jan. 9 were not there for flu shots, but to celebrate the second anniversary of their favorite Nutley mascot, Bernie.

Created Jan. 11, 2014, by the Nutley Board of Public Health under Commissioner Steve Rogers, Bernie’s Club is an educational, interactive club that has taken off like gangbusters among the younger set. Free to all school-age residents in grades one through six, the club was launched with a simple mission: to bring creative, fun and life-changing information and wellness routines into the lives of Nutley families.

Nurse Patty Cruz is the director of Bernie’s Club, and said she is thrilled with the engagement of the kids as they enjoy the classes and learn about empowering themselves via healthy eating and other good habits.

“It’s wonderful to see children taking what their schools and parents have taught them and making it fun, and part of their everyday life,” said Cruz. “This was a celebration for Bernie’s second anniversary here in Nutley.”

The scene was a winter wonderland, with the office and meeting space magically transformed into a gorgeous, glittery snowy landscape, complete with fir trees and plenty of sparkling lights and gift bags lined up on a festively decorated table. The children were thrilled to enter the party by walking through the Bernie’s Club archway. In addition to enjoying the company of their friends, there were educational activities and other amusements.

“We taught about winter storms, and I did a PowerPoint presentation, which was interactive,” said Cruz. “We covered some snow day safety tips, like sledding safely by avoiding streets and ice, and safe snowball throwing.”

As part of the fun, the team organized a safe bit of “sock” throwing shenanigans, to the delight of one and all.

“The highlight really had to be the sock softball fight,” said Cruz, laughing.
The children also enjoyed healthy snacks, such as hummus and veggies, but there were also cupcakes on hand, since eating treats as “sometime foods” is part of the realistic healthy lifestyle choices offered.

The party was free and funded by Nutley Department of Public Affairs.

All the children left with smiles on their faces, warm new gloves inside their goody bags and a fun assignment.
“We asked them to take a challenge sheet home, and draw a picture or write a note about how they applied the safety techniques,” explained Cruz. “Next month they bring it back to us and they get ‘biscuit points’ to trade in for ‘paw prizes.’”

Bernie’s Club is free of charge for all Nutley children in grades one through six and is held on the second Saturday of each month. Next up, the club will march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Nutley. To learn more or to register, contact PCruz@nutleynj.org