First lady Michelle Obama announces the Partnership for a Healthier America program in Dallas on May 14, 2012. …In a bid to help more than 1.7 million kids embrace sports and get fit this summer, the United States Olympic Committee has launched Partnership for a Healthier America to help families find free and low-cost sports options in their neighborhoods.
The program is backed by First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move!" initiative to end childhood obesity.
"This year, 1.7 million young people will be participating in Olympic and Paralympic sports in their communities - many of them for the very first time," the first lady said. "And that is so important, because sometimes all it takes is that first lesson, or clinic, or class to get a child excited about a new sport."
"When we were younger, you'd open up the door and kids would go out to play," Obama told Yahoo! Shine in an April interview. "Well, nobody's out playing; everybody's in an activity and it costs so much money to have them in these activities. … How many families can afford this?"
Her own daughters are among the lucky ones, she said, "Because they're fortunate enough to be in a school with a sports program and they have to take sports." But for the vast majority of kids in the country, fitness isn't built into their school day.
"That's why this stuff is so important for kids who don't live in communities where they don't have the resources," she said. "Because many schools don't have these programs, so these kids aren't getting exposed to anything.
The goal of Partnership for a Healthier America is to get those kids involved and active. Expanding on their interest in the Olympics was a natural step.
"So this summer, together with our children, we can support Team USA not just by cheering them on, but by striving to live up to the example they set," she said in a statement on Monday. "In the end, some of these athletes will bring home the gold, but all of them will make our country proud, and all of them will inspire a generation of young people to get active, to strive for excellence, and to pursue whatever dreams they may hold in their hearts."
Several national governing bodies of the U.S. Olympic Committee have pledged to support the new partnership by offering free or low-cost programs for kids. (You can find a complete list of the programs and sign up at here.) They include:
- Free 30-day memberships to tracks and free races and clinics at 350 BMX tracks around the country this summer.
- The "FUNdamental Field Hockey" program, aimed at kids ages 7 to 11, to teach kids about field hockey at 250 locations nationwide.
- Local member clubs that will host clinics and events for National Gymnastics Day on September 22, 2012.
- Eighty new paralympic sports clubs and training by U.S. Paralympics for an additional 1,000 local leaders.
- The U.S. Soccer Federation's "Soccer for Success" program, open to kids in 13 cities.
- The "Make a Splash" program, offering learn-to-swim classes to 530,000 kids at more than 500 local partner sites.
- USA Basketball's "Hoops for Troops" initiative, which will include events and clinics for military families this summer in collaboration with Let's Move!, the First Lady's Joining Forces Initiative, and the Department of Defense.
"It's important for us to remember that being active and moving more doesn't mean you have to train like our nation's elite athletes," Partnership for a Healthier America President and CEO Larry Soler said. "But being active is part of a healthy lifestyle. And the more opportunities our kids have to move, the healthier lives they will lead."
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Also on Shine:
Michelle Obama's advice for kids: on friends, role models, playing sports, and more
Why it's important for kids to play sports
Has "Let's Move" made a difference?