DALLAS - Today, first lady Michelle Obama joined U.S. Olympians, Paralympians and London hopefuls to announce a nationwide commitment to get more than 1.7 million American children active as part of her Let's Move! initiative to solve the problem of childhood obesity in a generation. Through commitments to the Partnership for a Healthier America by the United States Olympic Committee, U.S. Paralympics, the U.S. Olympians Association and National Governing Bodies - including USA Cycling/USA BMX, U.S. Soccer, USA Swimming, USA Track & Field, US Tennis Association, USA Field Hockey and USA Volleyball - beginner athletic programming will be offered to more than 1.7 million kids in 2012. PHA has also created a website, AHealthierAmerica.org/Olympics, to help families find affiliated sports programs in their area.
Mrs. Obama, who will lead the Presidential Delegation to the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games in London this summer, is working to turn the inspiration of the Olympic and Paralympic Games into action by getting more kids healthy and active. In March, Mrs. Obama welcomed Samantha Cameron to the United States by hosting a mini-Olympics event for local school children and two weeks ago, she spoke at the Opening Ceremony for the 2012 Warrior Games.
"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. 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," said first lady Michelle Obama. "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. 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."
"We're incredibly honored to have Mrs. Obama join us in Dallas to celebrate the accomplishments of America's finest athletes and announce new ways we can all work together to increase access to sport for young children," said USOC CEO Scott Blackmun. "The Let's Move! initiative is an important one and something the entire Olympic family in the United States is eager to support."
"This summer, Team USA will inspire us all with their skill, their grace and their abilities. Because of today's commitments, the inspiration will not end after the closing ceremonies," said Larry Soler, PHA President and CEO. "The first lady's leadership has brought together a group of organizations that are committed to helping more than a million young people engage in sports in ways that were previously unavailable to them. 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 - but being active is part of a healthy lifestyle. And the more opportunities our kids have to move, the healthier lives they will lead."
"It was extremely important to my parents that I was active from an early age," said Natalie Coughlin. "I started swimming competitively at age 6 to make friends, be active and be healthy. It wasn't important to my parents that I win ribbons or trophies, but it was important that I was active and dedicated to something in addition to school. Not only did it feed my competitive drive and help me be healthy, but it made me a better student and a better kid. To join with the First Lady and spread that message is truly an honor."
Mrs. Obama has been leading a nationwide effort to combat childhood obesity so that children born today will reach adulthood at a healthy weight. The Let's Move! initiative is a comprehensive, collaborative, and community-oriented initiative that has sought to engage every sector of society to tackle head-on the many different factors that lead to childhood obesity. Today's announcement is a significant step towards providing children across the country with many different opportunities to become physically fit and stay active.
The Partnership for a Healthier America secured the following commitments from several NGBs of the U.S. Olympic Committee. PHA and the USOC will work with each of these groups to evaluate and monitor their progress with these efforts.
USA Cycling/USA BMX will offer free 30-day memberships to brand-new BMXers to race at 350 BMX tracks nationwide this summer. These efforts will engage approximately 88,000 young people, an increase of 40 percent from 2011.
USA Field Hockey will launch the "FUNdamental Field Hockey" program to introduce kids ages 7-11 to the sport of field hockey at 250 locations. The program will engage 15,000 kids this year.
USA Gymnastics will challenge its local member clubs to host introductory clinics and events for National Gymnastics Day on September 22, 2012. These events will reach approximately 40,000 kids - an increase of 80 percent over USA Gymnastics' youth engagement last year.
The U.S. Olympians Association recently kicked off a "Walk to London" initiative through which 5,456 children will walk a total of 5,456 miles - the distance from Los Angeles to London - at 20 free community-based walks from April 8 through June 23. More than 250 Olympians and Paralympians will participate as walk leaders, and each walk will host other clinics and sports expos alongside the route.
U.S. Paralympics will facilitate 300 Paralympic Ambassador visits to schools and community centers and provide training for an additional 1,000 local leaders. U.S. Paralympics will also work with local partners to establish 80 new Paralympic Sports Clubs to reach a total of 250 clubs by the end of this year. The organization estimates that they will engage a combined 87,500 young people through these programs, an increase of 40 percent over last year.
U.S. Soccer will engage 12,000 youth in 13 cities through the U.S. Soccer Foundation's "Soccer for Success" program, which provides free, afterschool programming to urban youth. In 2011, the program reached 8,000 kids in eight cities.
USA Swimming will enroll 530,000 new learn-to-swim participants in its "Make a Splash" program at more than 500 local partner sites. Additionally, USA Swimming will engage 70,000 new youth members through its local chapters. In all, USA Swimming will provide beginner programming to 600,000 young people in 2012.
The US Tennis Association will introduce 620,000 youth to tennis by training 4,000 physical education professionals in the "10 & Under Tennis" curriculum. USTA will also expand its National Junior Tennis and Learning Network to reach 100,000 youth through local partner sites. Additionally, USTA will involve 30,000 youth in kids tennis clubs that provide afterschool and summer programming in communities across the country. In all, USTA will reach 750,000 new kids this year.
USA Track& Field will expand its youth programming by 35 percent this year to reach 120,000 kids across the country. USATF will do this by engaging 80,000 youth in local track clubs and by facilitating beginner clinics and Olympian visits for 40,000 students through its Win with Integrity and Track in a Box programs for schools.
USA Volleyball will introduce 30,000 children to volleyball in 2012 by enhancing their "Grow the Game Together" programming, launching a new "Move with a New Player" program, and expanding its existing youth outreach with partners including the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance and the YMCA.
In addition, USA Basketball, as part of its Hoops for Troops initiative, will host a series of 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. These efforts will coincide with the 2012 USA Basketball Men's and Women's National Team Tour and the World Basketball Festival in July.
The USOC will support its National Governing Bodies as they work to fulfill these commitments throughout the year. In addition, the USOC will utilize the platform of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games to promote active, healthy lifestyles through multiple communications channels, events, and media opportunities.