Feature Article - February 2009
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Inspiring a Lifetime of Health

Wellness Programming for the Under-18 Crowd

By Dawn Klingensmith

Show Me the Money

Aside from defraying program costs because marketing and other expenses are shared, partnering with nonprofits and other organizations helps ensure appropriate nutrition information gets disseminated. With regard to nutrition, "We don't always have answers for everything, so it behooves us to find experts on these subjects and develop partnerships," said Herron of Westerville.

For Westerville's FitQuest Kids' Club, Nationwide Children's Hospital made for an ideal and easily forged partnership because "hospitals have an interest in nutrition from the preventive side," Herron said.

Public agencies, health departments, school districts, police and fire departments, and affiliates of national organizations such as the American Heart Association are all prospective partners for initiatives aimed at curbing childhood obesity.

As far as attracting private-sector sponsors, anything having to do with children's well-being is an easy sell. Mecklenburg County has received sponsorship for some of its programs from Subway, the sandwich chain whose low-fat menu items famously helped spokesperson Jared shed more than 200 pounds.

When the Washington, D.C., Parks and Recreation Department adapted the American Heart Association's national "Recess by the River" program to address a childhood obesity problem in one of its wards, it secured funding and support from the heart association, the American Lung Association, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline and the Washington Redskins. The event's partners and sponsors were instrumental in getting the point across to kids that "exercise can be fun and done either alone or with friends and family," said John Stokes, director of communications.

The Redskins' cheerleading squad "came out and did cheerleading moves with the kids," he added. "We wanted to underscore the message that there are so many different ways to get your heart pumping."

Activities included cheerleading, step aerobics, weightlifting, dancing, boot-camp-style workouts and kickboxing.

On a smaller scale, for a relatively low cost, community retailers such as grocery and sporting goods stores can contribute prizes for "passport" programs.