In the winter, many New Jersey children stay indoors, developing sedentary habits and increased risk for childhood obesity or Type 2 diabetes.

What's worse is that some of these children don't have either the geographic or socioeconomic means to participate in winter activities. That's where the National Winter Activity Center comes in.

Located in Vernon, NWAC was founded in 2014 by the National Winter Sports Education Foundation with the aim of becoming the first, and only winter sport competition facility for children ages 6 to 17.

Schone Malliet, CEO of the nonprofit, further said NWAC began "with the idea to create a dedicated facility to improve the life, health and fitness of youth through winter activities."

"An increase in winter activities allows those youths not to be so sedentary, or moves them away from technology," he said.

Participants include the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges, which serves among other areas East Orange, West Essex, Wayne, and parts of Sussex County.

"We believe that our best way of reaching these youths in a continuous, sustainable manner is through creative and very continuous partnerships with those entities," Malliet said. "Within probably a 70-mile radius, there are 2.5 million kids that we believe we would try to serve if we had all the capacity."

Through seven sessions — two off-snow and the others on the snow, split into two, five-week-long "semesters" — NWAC provides instruction, meals, equipment and mentoring. A typical season runs from the first weekend in January through mid-March.

A team of experts guides children along no matter their starting level of experience, with the organization even endeavoring to enter some of the kids into winter sports competitions.

The up-and-down weather so far this winter, with higher-than-normal temperatures interrupted by a historic blizzard, has actually been conducive to the progression of NWAC's curriculum this season.

"It's kind of exciting to be able to do both (off-snow and on-snow training) and not lose momentum, in case Mother Nature doesn't always cooperate with us," Malliet said.

Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's evening news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015, email, and listen for his live reports Monday through Thursday nights between 6:30 and 11 p.m.

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