The University of Georgia helped kids in this South Georgia town work up a sweat.
From Zumba dancing to tackling an obstacle course to doing a few push-ups, the third Grady County Youth Fit Fest, organized by the UGA Archway Partnership, aimed to give parents and their children tools to stay active and healthy.
“I like the information that’s being provided to the community,” said Roger Pierce, a 32-year-old father of three. “It’s very important. You have to exercise. You have to eat right. More people would do it if they had the literature and information.”
The Fit Fest is the first step in the community’s strategy to tackle childhood obesity, said Betsy McGriff, the Archway Partnership professional in Grady County. Grady is 105th among Georgia’s 159 counties in overall health outcomes according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
“Folks just don’t realize that it’s (such a problem) or maybe they do realize it but don’t know what steps they can take prevention-wise,” McGriff said. “We just want to increase somebody’s knowledge base and couple that with tools to help.”
Henry Young, the Kroger Professor in Community Pharmacy in the UGA College of Pharmacy, is working with Archway’s Community Health and Wellness Workgroup on targeted solutions. Those future plans will build on awareness the community is generating through the Fit Fest.
Activities included body mass index calculations and blood pressure screenings. Another station offered samples of healthy snacks: smoothies and lettuce wraps instead of soda and potato chips.
Volunteers from the Cairo High School football team helped kids run through an obstacle course in Davis Park. Competitors were challenged to flip over tires, jump rope and do push-ups. Eleventh-grader D.J. Donaldson helped some of the younger children, holding their hands as they ran to the finish.
“They have so much energy,” Donaldson. “When they see us playing football, they wonder how we get the strength and the energy. Now, they see what it takes.”
Some of those kids made it to Lisa Starling’s table for a quiz about healthy living. Starling, a UGA Extension Agent, was promoting Walk Georgia, a program that encourages regular exercise.
Starling said it has become clear that childhood obesity is a problem. She wants to see the Youth Fit Fest become an important part of springtime in Cairo.
“It brings the community together for the kids,” Starling said. “It allows them to learn how to do exercises and we can teach them about other options than picking up a soda. Something we talk about a lot is the obesity of the kids in Grady County, how high it is and what we can do to help.”
The Archway Partnership is a unit of UGA Public Service and Outreach.