Athletes Instill a Love of Sports in Children

Metro YMCA Branches Host Healthy U Events to Combat Obesity

October 30, 2015

Basketball and soccer players and coaches from colleges and sports organizations ran drills and played with children in preschool and after-school programs run by the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges to inspire their passion for playing sports

The East Orange YMCA, the Sussex County YMCA, the Wayne YMCA, the West Essex YMCA and the South Mountain YMCA – branches of the Metro YMCA – held fun, interactive events last week to celebrate Healthy U, a program created in 2008 by the New Jersey YMCA State Alliance and the Horizon Foundation for New Jersey to combat childhood obesity through nutrition education, physical education and family involvement.

Healthy U is now the largest and most comprehensive childhood obesity prevention program in the nation, touching the lives of more than 46,000 children statewide at more than 500 YMCAs and elementary schools. The Horizon Foundation has already invested $5 million in Healthy U, and it has pledged another $1.25 million to support the program for the next four years.

“We are grateful to the Horizon Foundation of New Jersey for the funding and to school districts for playing an integral part of implementing the Healthy U program,’’ said Richard K. Gorab, president and CEO of the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges, the largest association of YMCAs in New Jersey with more than 35,000 members. “Childhood obesity is an epidemic that puts kids at risk for serious health problems,’’ Gorab said.

It’s estimated that one in three children is obese or overweight. Healthy U uses the evidenced-based, award-winning Coordinated Approach to Child Health (CATCH) curriculum, which is proven to prevent childhood obesity.

The East Orange Y hosted Richard Coore, president and head coach of the Arjahz Soccer Academy, on Oct. 19 and and Jose Rebimbas, head coach of the William Paterson University men’s basketball team, on Oct. 20.

“The kids had a blast learning techniques from the coaches and players,’’ said Gabriel Paul, the interim executive director and business administrator of the East Orange YMCA. “Our goal through the Healthy U initiative is to instill in children an enjoyment and appreciation of exercising and eating well so they develop healthy habits that last a lifetime.’’

At the Sussex County Y, players and coaches from Sussex County Community College’s basketball and soccer teams ran drills with children on Oct. 23. Children also got to play on the Ys new outdoor basketball court and make “veggie faces.’’

That same day, players from the Amateur Basketball Association ran drills with children in the Wayne Y after-school program.

Children in the West Essex Y’s after-school program played with Cougars: players on Caldwell University’s men’s and women’s basketball teams dribbled, blocked and rebounded with the kids at Harrison Elementary School in Livingston.

“Healthy U is making strides in getting kids to be active and to become more aware of the role good nutrition plays in their well-being now and throughout their lives,’’ Gorab said. By 2019, Healthy U will impact more than 70,000 children, as well as their family members, statewide.