When a great opportunity comes along, sometimes it takes a little grant money to get it going.
Such was the case with the partnership between the , the , , and United Healthcare.
Joanna Charara, the director for after school programming for both Dearborn-based schools, had been working with HYPE for several years. And when she heard about the local healthy living-focused nonprofit’s Get Fit New Me camp for youth, “We thought this program was perfect for our kids.”
Her idea was to not only get kids from both schools involved with the camp, but to also involve them with community service projects, and ultimately have them participate in the kid’s running portion of the in Dearborn on April 15.
The only issue? Funding.
In comes United Healthcare with its HEROES grant, a collaboration between the national health organization and Youth Service America intended to "award grants to help youth, ages 5-25, create and implement local, hands-on programs to fight childhood obesity."
Charara applied, and her idea fit in perfectly with the HEROES program's goal of promoting both health and community service for youth across the country.
“The best way to change lifestyles is when they’re smaller children–teach them good lifestyle habits, good eating habits,” said Jelka Petrovich, CEO and president of UHC’s Michigan arm. “That was the reason we partnered with Youth Service America and said let’s do something.”
For the past four years, YSA and UHC have presented hundreds of groups with small grants–including $500 to send Dearborn kids to Get Fit New Me this spring.
“We fund and foster creative solutions for childhood obesity,” added Petrovich. “The key is how do we become creative, innovative and joyful? Diets are not fun. Weight management is not fun. How do you make it fun?
“It’s gratifying to see, because with young people, if we get them to think of (health) creatively, they think it’s fun.”
The notion fits perfectly with HYPE's Get Fit New Me program, which focuses on teaching participants fun and memorable ways to stay healthy.
“We try to reach all aspects of physical fitness so kids are getting a full body workout,” said program director Celia Nasser. “And we try to keep it fun.”
Charara said she hopes to add projects such as gardening and community service projects to the kids’ after school activities.
And as for the kids?
“They love it,” says Charara. “It’s amazing … they’re really getting into it. They’re really excited about it. “
At the Martian Marathon, the kids’ experience will culminate with a 1.2 mile run, on top of 25 miles that they have logged throughout the past few weeks. They’ll receive a medal, a sense of accomplishment, and hopefully, a lifelong reminder of why it’s great to stay fit.
Learn more about the HEROES program here.