Keeping the Best Interest of Children at Heart in Brunswick, Georgia
Stay active. Be passionate. Love what you do. This has been the motto of leaders of We Can!'s Children in Action Sports Club (C.I.A.). Since joining We Can!® as a City/County site in August 2009. C.I.A is a faith-based sports ministry program in Brunswick, Georgia that demonstrates the importance of sustainable, consistent, and strong programming for families in the community.
C.I.A's ongoing program, Pound-4-Pound, uses We Can! curricula to teach healthy habits and focus on increasing physical activity, eating healthy, and decreasing screen time. While parents learn about healthy lifestyles from the We Can! Parent Program, children ages 7-12 engage in We Can! youth programming, including Media-Smart Youth: Eat, Think, and Be Active!® and CATCH® Kids Club (Coordinated Approach To Child Health). Along with the programming, Pound-4-Pound uses We Can! tips to teach families about shopping smart and regularly takes participants to a local grocery store to teach about healthy food choices. Participants roam the aisles of the store in search of fresh and healthy alternatives to processed foods that are usually high in fat and calories.
Every six weeks, C.I.A.'s Kalvin Brooks, founder of the Pound-4-Pound program, and his team launch a new session of the popular program. Fourteen children and parents participate in the current session, and many families return for other activities. C.I.A. has 80 children already committed to the summer outreach program. Pound-4-Pound also includes engaging group activities like last year's 5K walk that brought out nearly 70 children and parents. Each session, Kalvin tries to make his material exciting and fresh to attract new groups of families.
"We go to schools and speak with principals and church leaders, as well as gyms to recruit new families. We really get involved in the community and speak with people to find out if they may be interested. They usually respond very well," said Brooks.
C.I.A. partners with several local organizations and companies to help support its program. Some of its community partners include Dick's Sporting Goods, which provides gift cards as incentives for completing the programming, and Gold Coast Nutrition, which provides healthy snacks for children.
"It is all about selling the message of healthy living for children to local business owners in the hope that they will want to give back to the community," Brooks said.
Brunswick (population 16,326) is located in the coastal region of Georgia, just north of the Florida border. In this area, many families are struggling to maintain a healthy weight. That is where C.I.A.'s Pound-4-Pound program comes into play. For the past three years, Kalvin and his team have worked to build relationships with children and their families to equip them with the skills they need to make healthy choices.
"Not many children in our area can play sports—some don't have the resources and some never get an opportunity," said Brooks.
As C.I.A. and Brunswick prove, strong and steady We Can! programming inspires families in Georgia to live healthy lifestyles and learn more about physical activity, nutrition, and screen time. If you're wondering how you can learn from the success of this community site, check out some of the following tips:
- Visit local organizations to recruit new families. Schools are a great place to find interested parents and children for We Can! programming, but also try to think of other venues like local recreational centers, faith-based organizations, and areas that families frequent like malls or shopping complexes. Get permission to set up a table with We Can! materials to attract potential participants and families.
- Collaborate with other We Can! community sites in your area to learn from each other and combine programming and recruitment efforts. Find a list of registered community sites in your city or state by visiting the We Can! website or request a list from your regional liaison.
- Pound-4-Pound teaches families about shopping smart and regularly takes participants to a local grocery store to teach about healthy food choices. We Can!'s new partnership with Share Our Strength will help connect community sites with SOS materials like Cooking Matters® and Shopping Matters® programs, that they can use to complement their We Can! parent programming. Cooking Matters teaches families with financial challenge how to get more nutritious food for their money. Volunteer culinary and nutrition experts lead six-week cooking and nutrition courses and hour-long Shopping Matters grocery store tours where participants learn how to select healthy, low-cost ingredients and prepare them in delicious and healthy ways.