Getting the right treadmill for your body and budget!

300,000 Lives Changed With Many More In Need

“Physical education had been eliminated at the elementary level…which is criminal!  Kids definitely need physical education.” These are the words of Normandie Nigh, who is the leader of an organization making a huge difference in the Los Angeles community. 

A World Fit for Kids! (WFIT) has worked since 1993 to make an impact on the lives of over 300,000 low-income youth.  Plus, more than 10,000 school teachers have been trained by WFIT on how to incorporate more physical education into their classrooms. 

WFIT provides both in-school and after-school daily programs for kids in grades K-12.  The organization is focused on helping kids with their physical, emotional, and mental wellness by cementing physical activity as a regular aspect of their lives.

In addition, WFIT has a strong mentorship program called Mentors in Motion (MiM) that provides leadership development, professional experience, and internship opportunities to teenagers.  Normandie explained how she was, “just blown away by the power of the older kids teaching the younger kids.”

WFIT has a unique spokesperson with a near legendary ability to promote the organization.  Hercules himself, actor Kevin Sorbo has been the celebrity spokesperson for WFIT ever since 1997.  “I was watching the TV show and I liked the message,” Normandie explained.  Knowing that WFIT needed a spokesperson, she went about getting in contact with Sorbo.  She was thrilled to learn that he was very interested in becoming an active part of the effort and has been a strong advocate for them ever since.

Still, the true magic of this organization takes place each day in the classroom.  During the WFIT sessions, leaders encourage the kids to pay attention to their bodies and notice how they feel when they are staying physically active and eating fresh foods. 

Classroom teachers also benefit from this instruction.  “They need the experience of how much more energized and how better they feel when they exercise and they’re moving more.”  Teachers learn about energy breaks and how they can integrate movement into their instruction during the day.  “It’s a game changer!” Normandie exclaimed.  “We would like to be able to train more adults so they are healthier and so they can be better mentors for those who are young.”

WFIT experiences their own fair share of challenges in operating their programs.  “I think the biggest challenge for any non-profit is constantly bringing in the money they need to keep the doors open,” Normandie chuckled.

Plus, many of the kids in this community are at poverty level.  The large majority of the population qualifies for free or reduced lunches at school.  This means kids may learn how to make healthy recipes with fresh ingredients at the WFIT classes, but are unable to reproduce these meals at home without access to grocery stores or money to pay for expensive ingredients.

Kids in these neighborhoods suffer from a lack of safe place space in their communities.  This means that kids are less able to play on their own and discover their own personal passions without the help of after school programs like those provided by WFIT.

“A good after-school program costs $17 to $18 per kid per day,” Normandie explained.  The rate for the state of California has been around $7.50 per student since 2006.  This means that your political support can make a real difference. 

One person trying to make a difference through politics is a WFIT graduate named Gilberto.  Gilberto came in as a 1st-grader and proceeded through the elementary, middle, and high school levels.  As a teen, he became a mentor and eventually a teen board member.  He went on to earn a college scholarship and create a successful IT career.  Today, he still works towards WFIT’s goals and has helped the organization reach out to key senators.  “He’s our poster child.  He’s an amazing guy,” Normandie gushed.

Other former students, now adults, often stop by the WFIT offices to introduce their own kids who are starting in the elementary programs.  “I’ve been doing it for 23 years now, which has been so wonderful,” said Normandie.  She loves that she is able to make a difference in the lives of kids in the inner city communities.

When asked what WFIT needs, Normandie explained that political support was very important.  “I think a lot of parents don’t understand that these programs cost a lot of money, but they’re free {for students}.  They don’t understand that it’s based off the legislators and governor. We need folks to raise their voices about how important after-school programs are, not only in California, but around the country.  We need awareness that these programs are critically important to the community, working families, and for the kids.”

They have other challenges as well.  “The hardest thing for us is to get unrestricted funding so we can continue to buy the healthy foods.  We give our team members over 30 hours of training each school year which is almost unheard of for after-school programs.  We want all of our coach mentors to be able to teach the Nourishing Matters programs.  We want our entire team walking the talk.”

If you share the ideals of WFIT, a final way you can help is to volunteer as a sponsor.  WFIT is hoping to find additional healthy sponsors. To learn more, see the contact information below.

A World Fit for Kids

Los Angeles, CA

Interview with Maureen “Mo” Holohan

How did your organization get started?

In 2009 a group of boys asked me to coach their seventh grade basketball team. I said yes, but with one condition: No road trips to Long Island or New Jersey. Why that condition? I knew that the toughest competition was only blocks away in all directions in Manhattan, and that these boys might not have a winning record, but they would have opportunities to work hard and learn. The boys and their parents were IN and the first boys’ team quickly learned more than just basketball moves – they learned how to hang tough and earn it, which is the mantra all the teams at Mo’ Motion work by on and off the court.

Mo’ Motion has since grown from that one team of seventh graders in 2009 to serving 1000 youth grades K-12 in the community each year through our program and our league, The Gotham Basketball Association. The culture of Mo’ Motion includes strong systems of training rooted in fundamentals, proper development and a focus on whole-body health. Our exceptional coaches include accomplished former high school, college, and pro players.  Some of our youth players go on to be high school JV and varsity captains all the way up to playing at the college level.

In addition, the Gotham Basketball Association (GBA) was born out of a need I saw in the area for an active, inclusive network for area teams to participate in games without extensive and often cost-prohibitive travel requirements.

What is the main mission of your organization?

Mo’ Motion promotes an inclusive environment while raising funds to keep opportunities local for parents, coaches, and players, regardless of their playing levels. We work with GBA to renovate gyms, community centers, and parks, as well as sponsor teams in need of financial and coaching support. We use our proceeds from birthday party hosting and corporate events to help support our community support initiatives.

Together Mo’ Motion and GBA serve youth in New York City. Mo’ Motion strives to educate youth about sports and fitness while promoting amateur sports in the community. Our philosophy is EARN IT. This means we not only ask students to give 100%, but we provide them with strategies for doing this, focusing on charting progress and personal growth over wins and losses.

Our players in grades K-12, teams, and staff members have equal opportunities. In addition, we are building our IMPACT Program, with strategic plans to include more youth in a cross-section of sports. Concurrently, we are expanding our after-school programming into public schools that are in need of providing team sports and fitness opportunities to under-resourced girls ages 8-11 years old, significantly improving their chances of playing sports and remaining physically active through middle and high school.

We are year-round, and we offer weeknight only, weekend only, and a mix, which is comparable to a club team membership pass. We also host birthday parties and we do small group training, corporate events, and public speaking.

What particular challenges do you encounter in your community?

Our organization faces several challenges. The first is that we are a non-profit competing in a world of for-profit entities. We also face the real challenge of providing what we know kids need – quality, inclusive, sports training that gets to the heart of physical fitness and skills-based learning, instead of only giving court time to the perceived “best” athletes or to the kids whose parents can afford the best.

Children and families face growing pressures to be the best athletes through participation in travelling, high-intensity competitive leagues. This type of narrow focus leaves many youth underserviced. Girls, in particular, who are not exposed to programs such as ours at early ages, are more likely to make poor social decisions and are less likely to participate in athletics as they go on to middle and high school (and then adulthood).

Mo’ Motion is able to reach across the spectrum, providing high-quality sports training to those top athletes, as well as to kids who need an opportunity for physical fitness that promotes healthy choices for life.

What are your greatest success stories? Do you have any special stories or programs you’d like to tell us about?

One of our greatest success stories is the journey of the Cubs. Several years ago, I wanted to reach out and help our first rented public school – PS 191 – by replacing their blackboards. With the cooperation of the school, I rallied a group of girls from grades 3-5 to form a club team. The goal was not to necessarily form a competitive team for weekend games, but to provide opportunities for regular exercise while spending time with friends in a safe environment.

I did not realize at the time when those first 22 girls walked through the door that none of them had ever played any organized sport. Only two had ever even watched a basketball game. Over the next few months our coaches taught them the basics of the game, and by January they were ready for their first game against one of our other teams – Mo’ Motion Grade 4 Purple. The Cubs won that first game 24-10. More than the scoreboard win, though, was the W the team continued to experience off the court as a result of their time on the court. Their school’s guidance counselor told me that the behaviors of the players improved radically at school. Homework was on time, and of better quality. Social skills were improving. The morale of the team continued to grow as these girls continued to grow as young women. This past season, this group of 8th grade girls went on to compete in the city finals. The Cubs now have elementary and middle school girls’ basketball teams. I see the ripple effect continuing.

I am appreciative to have the support of the Gotham Basketball Association, the biggest and most inclusive league for boys and girls in the community. This league allows Mo’ Motion to continue providing opportunities for youth of all backgrounds and skill levels to learn the fundamentals of the game, compete in a positive environment, and build lifelong passions for fitness. We pride ourselves on proper behavior, equal opportunities, social inclusiveness, and whole-person health. We always remind our kids to have fun and to give back.

What can community members in your state do to help you reach your goals?

Our program, like other non-profits, requires the support of community members and business. Specific ways to help include:

  •        Sponsorships of teams and individual players in need
  •        Donations, both monetary and in-kind
  •        Volunteering as coaches and mentors


Mo’ Motion

New York, NY

Helping Underprivileged Children Through the Game of Golf – and Finding the Next Tiger Woods

The Fairway Foundation is on a mission to help youth in Twin Cities. And in the process, they might just find the next Tiger Woods.

Their programs focus on education, recreation, life skills, cultural enrichment, mentoring and coaching. Through their partnership with community-based organizations and Personal Enrichment Programs for African Americans, they are helping many disadvantaged youth in Minnesota.

How? With the game of golf. Their scholarship program “Sponsor a Future Tiger” aims to introduce youth to the game of golf. Because of this program, kids who might never have set foot on a golf course in their lives, now spend countless hours practicing, learning, and growing on the golf course.

The “Sponsor a Future Tiger” program targets kids ages 8-13, and helps them develop golf skills so that they can compete on High School golf teams. In addition to the golf skills they learn, qualified high school graduates in the program also are able to earn college scholarships.

In an interview with Erik Goodlow, a lifelong golfer and board chair of the Fairway Foundation, he said that the main mission of the organization is to instill the values of the game of golf in the underrepresented youth they serve. These values – honesty, self-reliance, sportsmanship, and integrity – help to “Keep Kids on Course.” Erik explains that the Fairway Foundation wants to “provide experiences that enable our participants to make responsible decisions and produce strong, community leaders for the future.”

This can be challenging, because of the limited access intercity youth have to activities like golf. Erik adds that “most golf courses are not accessible via public transportation and many inner-city youth don’t walk or travel by golf courses in route to any of their daily activities.”

Despite the difficulties they face, the Fairway Foundation has had many success stories. Erik’s favorite is about a 2007 graduate. In 2010, this graduate became a member of the vaunted Navy Seals and graduated from the Great Lakes Navel Training Center in Illinois. Erik and the Fairway Foundation want to help as many youth as they can, but they can’t do it alone.

Erik says that the best way for community members to help the Fairway Foundation is to volunteer. There are many opportunities to volunteer during events and activities such as the summer program, weekly practices, the Scholarship tournament, and the year-end scramble tourney. There can never be too many volunteers, and Erik says “any amount of time and any time of year we will gladly accept volunteers.”

If you’re an avid golfer yourself, you can also help by participating in one of the many fundraising tournaments. Each year, The Fairway Foundation holds the Annual Scholarship Tournament. The proceeds of this event go to providing scholarships like the “Sponsor a Future Tiger” scholarship program.

If you would like to get involved with the efforts of this organization or make a donation, please visit their website. You can also email Erik if you are interested in volunteering your time at the Fairway Foundation using the contact form on their website.

Fairway Foundation

Minneapolis, MN


Inspiring Youth and Strengthening Communities with Bicycles!

Written by Steve Maluk

Neighborhood Bike Works was founded in 1996, and in 1999 we incorporated as a 501(c)3 non-profit.  We were founded by a group of bike advocates and bike mechanics who saw a need to provide hands-on experiential education to Philadelphia youth while recycling and repurposing used bicycles.

Our mission is to inspire youth and strengthen Philadelphia communities by providing equitable access to bicycling and bike repair through education, recreation, and leadership and career-building opportunities.  We believe in youth voice, and provide young people with a series of progressively more challenging and engaging programs through which they can develop as bicyclists, mechanics, and leaders in their community.

Among the nation’s 25 largest cities, only Detroit has a higher poverty rate than Philadelphia.  According to the March 2016 Economic Innovation Group’s report on distressed communities, the zip codes of 19104, 19139, and 19131 — our primary service area — rank at or above the 89th percentile of distressed communities in the United States.  These neighborhoods communities suffer from a combination of high unemployment rates, low business growth, high poverty, and low high school graduation rates.  Philadelphia youth also feel the brunt of the public school district’s funding woes, so out-of-school-time programming, like we provide at NBW, can be a crucial component in the healthy development of Philly youth.

Our greatest successes can be best conveyed by sharing the stories of individual youth who participate in our programs.  Simone came to NBW as a 10 year old, and participated in our Ride Club program and then our Earn-A-Bike program.  She had a bike at her dad’s house, but it was broken.  And at her mom’s house, she didn’t have a bike.  She was able to earn a bike at NBW, and was soon able to repair her other bike in our programming.  So soon enough, she had a working bike at both of her parents’ homes.  Simone progressed through our intermediate and advanced programming, and in the summer of 2016 she served as a co-instructor in our Summer Cycling Day Camp for youth in a paid job training position.  Since then, Simone has joined our Youth Council and taken on a leadership role among her peers and in our organization.  She recently spoke to over 100 adults at our annual fundraising event, about her experience at NBW, and her plans to pursue a career as an automobile mechanic.

During the 2015-2016 program year, a total of 529 youth participated in the NBW programs.  So far, students have ridden a total of 5,242 miles and have received 128 bikes from the organization.  Students learned about goal-setting, leadership, cooperation, and perseverance.  They also learned healthy habits, confidence, and basic repair skills.

At the National Youth Bike Summit in Minneapolis, seven NBW youth were given the opportunity to present.  Two more presented at the Better Bike Share Conference in Philadelphia.

Last, for those in Philadelphia inspired to get involved with Neighborhood Bike Works, we first encourage you to visit our website,  We offer adult programming too, where one can learn bike repair skills and receive help from experienced mechanics to repair their own bike.  We run a community bike shop as an earned-income project, where one can purchase an affordable, quality used bike — every sale of which benefits our youth programming.  We also thrive on volunteers, who can help out in our youth or adult programs, with office or event support, and through service on our Board of Directors.  Lastly, we could not exist without the generous donations of individual community members, foundations, and businesses both small and large.  All donations to NBW are tax-deductible.


Neighborhood Bike Works

Philadelphia, PA


Got GUTS?  Proving That ANY Child Can Be an Athlete

Written by Paul Turner

Please allow me to introduce myself and my partner and brother, Todd. Todd and I come from a marketing and advertising background. However, our passion is, and always has been, working with children and we have been involved with youth sports for most of our life. We get a great deal of satisfaction helping these kids grow in self-confidence and self-esteem.


Over 8 years ago, my brother and my sister-in-law gave birth to a beautiful young girl named Amarissa. Amarissa was born with Down syndrome. When Amarissa was roughly 4 years old, she regressed in her development, especially her speech. It wasn’t long after that Amarissa was diagnosed with a dual diagnosis. She was also autistic. Certainly, it was difficult but it did not deter my brother and sister-in-law from providing Amarissa with the healthiest and happiest life possible.

Team GUTS, Inc.

To that end, my brother and I were intent on creating a fitness and exercise environment for all children with special needs and disabilities. Additionally, we targeted teenagers and adults with special needs and disabilities.

In brief, Team GUTS was created to improve the lives of the special needs population by providing one-on-one training, fitness classes and sports programs. Our goal is to help as many families as possible; no family will be turned away due to inability to pay, and Team GUTS provides financial assistance to those families in need.  

These activities are especially important for the special needs community given the unique challenges they face in remaining fit.  With respect to the Down Syndrome community, research indicates low fitness levels and obesity despite data that indicate physiological gains from physical activity and exercise interventions. Low fitness levels and obesity in individuals with Down Syndrome are thought to be related to sedentary lifestyles, the lack of social and recreational opportunities, or low motivation to be physically active (Volume 12, Issue 1, July 2007, Down Syndrome Research and Practice). Consequently, there is a prevalence of obesity in children, adolescents and adults with Down Syndrome.

The Impact

We discovered that the special needs community is substantial; in Oakland County alone, there are over 20,000 families with special needs family members.  Furthermore, there are limited options for these families with respect to physical activities, especially consistent physical activities throughout the year. 

Our Accomplishments

We are still a nascent company and, as such, we really have much work to do. Even so, we are making steady progress. We offer several classes and programs including martial arts, Zumba, yoga, Hip Hop Dance, Autism Movement Therapy, Sensations Dance, one-on-one fitness training, cycling, athletic training and golf. And, we have so much more on the horizon. For a better idea of what we currently offer, please visit


Here are some stories from some of our families:

The dance student, Chelsea, was sure to tell me that she “dropped 20 pounds from [this] class”! Macy Damon’s parents both told me that they definitely will be back in the fall to Autism Movement Therapy and Kate Israel’s mother, Molly, really wants Kate to continue Autism Movement Therapy as soon as possible. Oh, and the newer student, Lilliana, her mother did mention that she liked (and will continue in the fall) how Autism Movement Therapy was beneficial in a “better way” from her dance class (somewhere else).

One of the Troy school district teachers told me how she had never seen one young man participate as much as he did in my Autism Movement Therapy class. Another one of them said how they couldn’t believe how engaged they were….”they need this instead of gym class”. It was either Troy or Southfield that made this last comment…. 

Melanie Johnson, Dance Instructor

My daughter loved the class. Her dance skills improved, which helped her other activities. She improved her coordination and, most importantly, she had fun. Each week, she looked forward to her Zumba class. She couldn’t wait to get in the car and go. It’s a great form of exercise and a fun activity. Any chance that we have to get our kids moving, plus they enjoy the activity, it is a wonderful thing! Thank you for offering this class. 

Caterina De Falco, Mother

Paige enjoyed the camaraderie of her Zumba Class!  She looked forward to seeing her instructor and work-out friends every week. Physical activity is challenging for Paige and she benefits by having someone other than her parents getting her moving and excited about working out. Thanks for keeping her healthy, see you in the fall.

Kathy Tenjeras, Mother 

Taylor looks forward to his training session with Jake.  He plans his whole day around his workout!

Joanne Spence, Mother 

Gabby and Duncan really loved the yoga classes. Both commented on how much it helped them to calm their brains down.

I’m sure they would love to do it again. They both hope there would be more kids who want to do it too. While they liked the martial arts class they tried, both were overly tired out by it & their brains were racing afterwards. They didn’t like that part.

Their brains race all day. Finding something to calm them is great. Plus, yoga goes slow enough for their slow processing speeds.

Laurel Smith, Mother  

As you probably already know, we love your Zumba classes! Ann Marie is great and the rest of the staff is very friendly and really cares about our “special” kids. 

Peggy Branch, Mother  

He (son) loved everything about the karate class. 

Sandy Hawley, Mother

Jessica really enjoys the martial arts class with Sensei Dave! She was very sad that classes had to stop for the summer. From my point of view, Dave is an incredibly patient person, does a great job explaining techniques, and does so in a positive way, making all of his students “feel” their accomplishments. It is so important for all of us have as many positive influences in our lives as possible, and to be told that we are doing a great job. Who doesn’t like that! I like working with Jessica, and I am learning the art as well. That makes it truly something we can do together. My only complaint is that there is only 1 class each week! Any possibility of adding another day?

With regard to Zumba, Ann-Marie is so fun and energetic! Jessica loves to dance, yet it is often hard for her to complete that full hour immediately following martial arts. I often do Zumba with the class, and I love it! Ann-Marie makes everyone feel welcome, and makes sure all members are involved by talking to them and letting them know they are doing a great job. Again, my only complaint is having only that 1 class & time available.

As a whole, I think the classes are incredibly important, as they help people who may not be able to take traditional exercise/martial arts classes. Jessica is capable of those traditional classes, yet I feel the dynamic of the individuals involved makes the classes offered at GUTS more worthwhile. We are all better people because of our involvement with those who have abilities-not disabilities, that differ from our own!

Aimee Brinker, Mother


How The Community Help?

It goes without saying; every organization needs money to survive. Certainly, we are no different. We are always looking for donations and grants.

Importantly, we need to reach more families that would benefit from our programs and classes. Word of mouth is key. Moreover, it’s always good to share our story via traditional media, social media.

Finally, we are looking for volunteers and instructors. There are talented people that have a unique skill set and experience working with the special needs community. We want to speak with these individuals. So, once again, getting the word out is key.


If you would like to get involved in the Team GUTS, please use the information below to get in touch with the team.

Team GUTS, Inc.

Ferndale, MI

How One Small Child Inspired 10 Years of Fitness Programming

Rhett Seevers was born on February 7, 1997.  His parents, Beth and Randy Seevers, couldn’t have been more thrilled with the adorable little boy. He had an infectious smile and gusto for life.  That’s why they were devastated to learn, at the age of 4 months, that Rhett suffered from a severe form of cerebral palsy.    The family banded together to learn all they could about how to help Rhett live his best life.  Nevertheless, at age 7, after years of full-time care, he died unexpectedly.

Rhett’s mother, Beth Seevers, was introduced to running about one year after Rhett’s death.  She decided to run the Shamrock’n half marathon in his honor on the one year anniversary of his passing.  The next year, she asked friends and family to join her again during this race.

What grew from these events is truly remarkable.  Today, the Runnin’ for Rhett Non-Profit inspires thousands of youth and adults in the Sacramento area with programming to help kids live the active lifestyle that Rhett never could.

We spoke with program director Lisa O’Shea to learn more about this non-profit…

“In 2010 Runnin’ for Rhett began their free Youth Fitness Program,” Lisa explained.  “The Runnin’ for Rhett Youth Fitness Program is designed to combat childhood obesity in at-risk youth by educating young people and their families on fitness and nutrition. The Runnin’ for Rhett Non-Profit makes training available twice a year in the spring and fall at no charge to schools in the 4-county Sacramento area.”

“Rhett’s parents, Randy and Beth Seevers as well as Runnin’ for Rhett staff and volunteers, meet with school officials, coaches, participants and their families to share Rhett’s story, offering motivation and encouragement to ensure a meaningful experience for all. During the free 7-week training program, the students meet two times per week with coaches to learn about proper running technique, stretches, and nutrition. In addition to training, each participant receives race entry to a 5K race twice a year, a Runnin’ for Rhett t-shirt and wristband, and a finishing medal.”

“Our hope is to use this program to touch the lives of all youth from a wide variety of different backgrounds. It is our experience that youth who feel like part of a team – accepted and encouraged – hold a higher self-worth, and will be more prepared for life’s challenges.  We find that the children that participate in our program encourage their families to live a healthier lifestyle as well – we call it the ‘trickle up’ effect, and we see many parents becoming engaged in fitness along with their children.  Our mission at Runnin’ for Rhett is to inspire people to Move Into Life.”

“In 2010 we began our Youth Fitness Program with 2 test schools and 104 students.  On April 2, 2017 we had our Run Because You Can race with 55 schools and over 2,200 students that participated in our program.  To date we have had 21,000 students complete our Youth Fitness Program in 121 different schools, with many of our schools joining our program year after year.  We have granted over $500,000 dollars in the past 7 years to our Youth Fitness Program.

The biggest challenge we face with our program is being able to get our students to our races.  We have many low income schools in our program, and transportation to the race is a challenge for many of our families.  We are looking at ways to obtain funding for bussing to our races for our low income schools.  We want all students that have gone through our training program to be able to attend the race, cross that finish line, and realize the accomplishment of all of their hard training.

“2017 marks Runnin’ for Rhett’s 10 year anniversary and continues our original goal of helping adults and children Move Into Life.  Our adult fitness program called Blue Crews Training  is designed to offer a wide array of training options to our members.  Beginner to veteran, slow to fast, young to old we have a program for everyone from walking to running, trail running to cycling, social to competitive.   Our unique model raises funds to host our after school Youth Fitness Program through membership fees from our R4R Blue Crew adult training program, supplemented with events we host and generous corporate and individual sponsors.”

“When our R4R Blue Crews train, they are training not only for themselves, but for the youth of our community. Every two months they are a member of the Blue Crew Training they enable another student to participate in the R4R Youth Fitness Program. One year of training enables six youth to move into life.”  

“We have many volunteer opportunities throughout the year to help at our different fundraising events that fund our Youth Fitness Program.  We have a volunteer program to help with our Youth Fitness Program in our schools called Rhett Reps  – it takes a minimum of 2 hours per week of their time to make a difference in a child’s life by being a support person for our training program.”

If you would like to get involved in the Runnin’ for Rhett Non-Profit Foundation, please use the information below to get in touch with the team.

Runnin’ for Rhett Non-Profit Foundation

Sacramento, CA

‘Gardens are for Kids’ Program Teaches About the Origins of Food

Lori Manns has a heart for children and wants to help influence their health and fitness habits from a young age.

“I started Live Healthy & Thrive Youth Foundation back in 2010,” she shared with us.  “I basically wanted to have an organization that dealt with health and wellness education so that children would be educated on the dangers of obesity, diabetes and hypertension.  This was an issue that was close to my heart because of the prevalence of those conditions and illnesses in my own family.”

It is her hope that these children will have a better chance of developing healthy habits once they grow up.  Personally, she did not have any sort of healthy role model growing up and professed that she was ‘just a kid that played outdoors’ from sun up to sun down.

“Kids today don’t play outside much and they don’t get as much physical activity as we did back in the 70’s and 80’s when I was coming up.  I wanted to have a safe place where kids could come and learn where food comes from and understand the agriculture, farming, and food industry in our country is very vital to our overall health and wellness.”

The Live Healthy & Thrive Youth Foundation non-profit agency is the result of her careful planning and hard work.  Its mission is to educate, activate, motivate and empower youth in the areas of health, fitness, nutrition, and total wellness.  The two main programs are Lori’s ‘brain-childs’ that she created in order to activate kids towards better health.  Her goal was to engage with them and make a true impact.

First, the Healthy Kids Workshop and Summer Camp program brings health professions in front of children.  The kids get to see doctors, nurses, dentists, and nutritionists up close and can ask questions. They get to see how these types of professional persons live their lives.

“I believe children will eventually become what they see,” Lori explained.  “What they see around them influences them.  It influences their conscious and subconscious minds.”

In lower income neighborhoods, kids see poor people, homeless people, gun violence, and all kinds of crime.  For many kids, the only professional they can really interact with on a daily basis is their school teacher.

“Rarely do they see that person who is successful and professional and who has a career that is not in music or in athletics.  With our Healthy Kids Workshop and Summer Camp, they get to actually see these professionals up close and personal.  They get to ask them questions and learn from them.”  This program is taken to schools and Boys and Girls Clubs in the Atlanta Metropolitan Area.

The second main program from Live Healthy and Thrive Youth Foundation is ‘Gardens are for Kids.’  This program is structured around teaching kids the importance of healthy food and helping them to learn the origins of food.

“We want to be able to educate them about how important the agriculture industry is to our society and why we need to learn how to plant and harvest our own food.”

“If we know how to plant and harvest our own food, we’re not subject to having to go buy it at a grocery store.  We can have fresh vegetables in our own backyard.”

Gardens are for Kids gives children a lifelong interactive learning experience.  They plant the vegetables and then wait 6-10 weeks for harvest.  Children feel a sense of accomplishment and interactive learning that can’t be bought.

“If they have it at their schools and they were a part of planting that garden.  And they were a part of harvesting that garden.  That’s something that they will remember for the rest of their lives.”

“Even if they don’t have a garden of their own, they’ll know where food comes from, and they’ll know the importance of nurturing their own food.”

LHTYF is very thankful to Home Depot who has been their sponsor for this program since the very beginning.  Lori explained, “Home Depot has been our partner since we started this organization and we are very thrilled to have their partnership because without it we just would not be able to do the Gardens are for Kids Program.”

“Since 2011, we have adopted a school every year and given them a garden from the ground up.”

Gardens are for Kids has been featured on many of the local TV stations.  Kroger Food Stores have also been instrumental in supporting the program.

“One of the biggest issues for us is funding.  There is no shortage in the United states of American for non-profit organizations, but unfortunately the bulk of the dollars go to the major, National non-profits that everyone knows about.”

“The smaller or micro non-profit that are local and based in a specific city… has to scrap for opportunities as they learn about them.”

LHTYF has to be resourceful when it comes to finding money.  They use local fundraisers and spread their message through social media and local radio/TV stations. “Just anyway we can, so we can try to get people to understand what we’re trying to do, and get them to support our cause and help us raise the money!”

LHTYF has many things to be proud of for their organization, but Lori is especially proud of their Pinnacle Youth Scholarship Fund.  It supports high school students who are planning to major in education, medicine, or STEM disciplines.

“We want to educate and empower them.”  She explained that these are the youth who are going to be the leaders of tomorrow.  When the program started, they were only able to distribute three $500 scholarships.  This past year, they were able to give an impressive five $1000 scholarships.  This money will be valuable to kids who need to pay for expensive text books or buy laptops to help them during their studies.

The children have thrived after going through the programs offered by LHTYF.  “One of our kids is now in nursing school!”  Lori explained how much these success stories mean to her and the staff.  She is always happy to hear back from grown kids who say how much of an impact the programs have had on their lives.

If you would like to help LHTYF meet their goals.  Please contact them using the information below.

Live Healthy & Thrive Youth Foundation

Atlanta, GA


A Remarkably Simple Model to Help Kids Ride Bikes Worldwide

In 1986, an avid bike enthusiast named Marilyn Price noticed a problem in San Francisco.  She was concerned about the troubled youth in the Bay area and wanted to find a way to let kids experience her long-held joy of bike riding.

Twenty-nine years later, her program, called Trips for Kids, helps youth in the San Francisco Bay Area experience and enjoy the outdoors from the seat of a bike.  TFK has expanded greatly since its creation.  Ms. Price is still an active member of the board while Kim Baenisch has taken over the running of the Bay Area chapter.

We spoke with Kim on the phone and she was able to tell us about the challenges faced by the ever-growing TFK program. “This past year, I was involved with refurbishing our Bay Area programming and the challenges of this current year have been about determining the best way to grow our national chapter network,” she explained.

The founder, Marilyn Price, received a great deal of recognition in the first ten years that she was running the program, so people started asking to build their own local chapters.  Today, TFK has around 75 chapters around the United States.  Managing this many individual chapters has been a great challenge for the TFK team.

Kim explained that, as a result, they are going to be creating a completely separate non-profit that is going to be focused entirely on just the national chapters’ support, resources, and expansion.  The new national TFK non-profit is going to focus on marketing, fund-raising, and organizing all of the support and resources that are needed to keep all of the chapters running and sustainable.

Kim says, “Our goal is to create sustainable chapters that can serve youth nationwide as long as possible.”  The national organization’s ten-year goal is to grow to 500 chapters in the US and abroad with 1/2 million kids on bikes through the TFK programs.  They also want to run 5,000 rides per year through these chapters.

This is an ambitious goal, but the impacts are well worth it for the children served.  Each ride is organized with existing agencies that deal with underserved youth.  The TFK ride leaders meet a group of youth at a trail head with equipment ready to go.  Once children are matched up with a properly sized bike and helmet, they are given a skills test, safety talk, and practice runs.  Then, they’re off!

Rides will roll through parks with each ride tailored to the age, skill level, and energy level of that particular group of youth.  Along the way, trained ride leaders will talk about flora and fauna.  The group will also stop for lunch, take a break to play lawn games, and talk about nutrition before they return to the trailhead.  The entire trip usually takes around four hours.

There is a great demand for this program in the San Francisco area and the children love it!

“We have endless quotes from youth,” Kim explained.  She went on to read several heartwarming messages from children who were given a break from stressful home environments and allowed to experience the outdoors.  Many of these children live in urban areas and are not able to access the outdoors on their own.  “These rides fill a void in providing healthy outdoor activities.”

If you are interested in starting a chapter of Trips for Kids in your local area, contact TFK using the information below.  Kim explained that they have a remarkably simple model to start a new chapter complete with a starter kit of 5 free bikes, 10 free helmets, water bottles, CLIF bars, an Adventure Medical Kit, bike stand, and tool kits.  The organization would also benefit from donations and word-of-mouth marketing.  So spread the word if you know of a youth population that would enjoy this program!

Trips for Kids

San Rafael, CA


Using Unique Concepts to Teach Young Students Fitness and Character Education

Kirk Farber saw a common pattern during his 10-years of volunteering with incarcerated 14-17 year old boys.  Many of these young men did not have a father-figure or mentor that could help teach them right from wrong.

To help fix this problem at its root, he created the FACE (Fitness and Character Education) program for elementary kids in 2003.  This dynamic program combines fitness education with character building, self-esteem, and confidence exercises to teach children how to be successful leaders.

The FACE4Kids program has helped over 25,000 elementary students in 50 different schools throughout Florida since its inception.  The program is offered for FREE to public schools, with all sessions during the school day.

He ‘Edu-tains’ with key program principles like Respect, Helping, Sharing, Focus, and Fun.  From there, he returns for smaller sessions with hand-picked students that could most benefit from the program.  During each session, the kids use martial arts to work on balance and coordination, jump rope and juggling to work on timing and coordination, and animal games for agility training and conditioning.  While fitness is essential, character building is priceless!

“My favorite part is speaking on a different word each week,” Kirk explained in a video on the FACE website.  “For example, we talk about the words ‘Friends.’  I say, ‘Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.’”  Kids learn about a different word each week and practice public speaking to build up their confidence.

On the 8th week, students attend a graduation where they receive awards.  Every student can earn a reward as long as they attend 75% of the sessions, do their homework, and avoid any disciplinary referrals.  Kirk is trying to teach the children that they can control their own actions or words.

Kirk has a deep connection with the martial arts he uses in the FACE program.  He began training when he was just 5 years old and now focuses on the Vietnamese Cuong Nhu oriental martial arts style.  “The founder of this style was O’Sensei Ngo Dong,” Kirk explained.  “He truly was a master.  He was not only the president of a college and a professional musician, and the founder of this style, but he influenced me very much, along with many others, in terms of the philosophy…That style taught me about giving back to the community.”

The greatest successes for FACE come when the organizers see the smiles on the faces of the kids.  They enjoy seeing how the young lives can be transformed.  Kirk also enjoys when the kids come up to thank him and he can know that he’s made a difference in their lives.  “I have one of the best jobs, knowing I can make a difference.”

If you are interested in getting involved with the efforts of the FACE program, check out their website.  You can donate, become a partner, or sponsor a program.  Even something as simple as making an Amazon purchase through their donation link can help.  Learn more below:


FACE:  Fitness and Character Education

Duval County, Florida

Taste the Rainbow:  Kids Learn How Delicious Vegetables Can Be!

Betsy Bragg is passionate about helping kids all across our nation learn how to grow and enjoy fruits and vegetables. She is absolutely convinced that a plant-based diet is the key to solving the problem of childhood obesity.

Betsy’s story began several decades ago when she was engaged in her own personal struggles to get healthy. She attended a course at the Hippocrates Health Institute in Florida in 2006 to overcome health challenges and in 2008 to become a certified health educator. From there she wrote a book, Eat to Thrive, and launched her own nonprofit called Optimum Health Solution. One of the programs that grew from this was called Real Kids Real Food.

RKRF was launched in in 2008 as a pilot program in the Boston area. This 10-session course runs primarily in after-school programs for grades 1-6. New programs can be launched either through school affiliation, after-school programs, girls and boys clubs, Scouts, church groups, or even through housing community centers. “It doesn’t matter where,” shared Betsy during our phone call. “We just want to get kids and their parents to like vegetables.”

“It includes mindfulness practices, games for exercise, growing food, preparing food, and learning about how to get complete nutrition through what we eat.” Her goal is for students to use their new skills to be creative at home in preparing dishes like soup or snacks with fresh fruits and vegetables.

“We just want people to be aware of all of the different kinds of vegetables and fruits and how delicious they can be if you prepare them.”

She continued, “Exercise is also very important. We include it in our program and kids really love it!”

Betsy explained that children especially like program sessions where their parents are involved so they commit to showing up for classes and being part of the experience. Many of the attendees rely on stipends to afford the class.

Optimum Health Solution has several fundraising activities including a skin clinic with proceeds that benefit Nepalese orphans as well as those kids in the RKRF program. They also have speaker events with proceeds going to RKRF.

Raising money and spreading their message are the two primary challenges for RKRF. Betsy is doing her best to educate those around her on the issue of childhood obesity. “Kids need to have an alkaline diet in order to lose weight. When they stay on a tremendous acidic diet they are going to gain weight.” According to her, this acidic diet comes from eating processed sugary foods and animal products such as dairy and meat.

The greatest success for RKRF comes in seeing the change in people’s lives. “I myself was 235 lbs and now I’m 135 lbs. I just pass on what I’ve learned to others. Others lose a lot of weight too. That’s just one of the rewards.”

She also shared how several participants have been able to overcome chronic conditions with this healthy change to their diet. “We see a lot of success. People overcome all of these chronic diseases and their need to take a lot of medications. They can increase vegetables and fruit in their diets and not have to take medication.”

One perfect example of this type of success story is a young boy named Carlos. Before attending the RKRF programs he was told by his doctor that he was pre-diabetic and at risk of developing type II diabetes. His mother enrolled him in the course where he learned how to prepare and enjoy fruits and vegetables. He said of one vegetable smoothie, “It tastes like a rainbow!” Several months later, at a follow up doctor’s appointment, he was told that all of his levels were again within the safe range.

If you would like to help out RKRF, then consider starting up a program in your local community. “I’m available for people to call me or email me for assistance. I volunteer and I have 300 graduates of my courses who are glad to help people too. They range all over New England.”

People who are not local to New England can also help by buying Betsy’s books and lesson plans on Amazon to support the program.


Real Kids Real Food

Boston, Massachusetts

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