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The summer Youth Basketball League, a joint venture of the Raleigh Police Department and the Raleigh Park and Recreation Department, gave teens the opportunity to learn about health and fitness while having fun. For the past 13 years, the two city departments have collaborated to provide a safe place for teens to enjoy themselves in the form of this basketball league. This year, however, a new addition improved the program tremendously. Approximately 200 players participated in a unique program opportunity "Hearts N' Parks Keep the Beat" which stressed the benefits of good nutrition and physical activity and demonstrated the dangers of drug and alcohol use. Participants were placed into groups of 6- to 12-year-olds and 14- to 16-year-olds.

At the beginning of the season, the players underwent a fitness evaluation to determine their physical strengths and weaknesses. By performing a variety of exercises, the players realized that fitness involved more than the ability to run fast or jump high. After undergoing the initial evaluation, the players set goals for themselves to achieve after playing and learning during the 8-week season. They were tested during the last week of the program to see if they accomplished what they set out to do. Following their fitness testing, the players heard firsthand from a personal trainer and former professional football player about good nutrition and the importance of maintaining a "sports body." Additionally, the players viewed a substance-abuse prevention video titled "The Performance Edge."

Throughout the season, to further emphasize the importance of healthy eating habits, the Park and Recreation Department arranged for fruit and Powerade to be served to the players after basketball games. Raleigh Park and Recreation purchased the fruit, and the Coca-Cola Bottling Company donated the Powerade so that these two items could be offered to the players free of charge. The impetus behind this was to help the players realize that fruit and Powerade are a healthy alternative to postgame snacking on fatty and sugary foods such as chips and soda.

Another exciting event organized for the players was a trip to the Alice Aycock Poe Center for Health Education, Raleigh's state-of-the-art health education center. This trip was made possible by a generous donation to the Raleigh Park and Recreation Department from the City of Raleigh Substance Abuse Advisory Committee. The Poe Center provided interactive methods for informing players about good nutrition and healthy eating habits and advised them against the use of gateway drugs and alcohol.

Through this varied curriculum, it was hoped that every participant of the Raleigh Police Department Youth Basketball League came away with more knowledge about healthy living and put this knowledge into practice after the program ended.

Raleigh's Learning All Summer through Education and Recreation (LASER) Summer Day Camp was packed with educational components that linked recreation to education for a summer of enjoyable learning. This past summer, the department added an outreach program conducted by the Alice Aycock Poe Center for Health Education to emphasize the importance of heart healthiness. The Center visited each of the LASER sites a minimum of three times throughout the summer program. The children were encouraged to pack healthy lunches and were provided with healthy snacks at camp. Parents who came to events at the camp were encouraged to pick up health-related publications made available by the department.


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