SOUTHFIELD — In a nationwide celebration of hardworking officials who have inspired healthy habits in their communities, Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence was among the guests hosted in the White House by first lady Michelle Obama this month.
On July 10, Lawrence was in Washington, D.C., for the Let’s Move! Cities, Towns, and Counties Anniversary Event, marking the success of the 2010 initiative to fight childhood obesity.
A total of 330 communities from nearly all 50 states took on the challenge of promoting a healthier generation battling childhood obesity — including Southfield.
“Too many young people today do not eat balanced, healthy meals or get enough exercise,” Lawrence said, adding that she hopes to instill healthy eating and exercise in residents while they are young. “I envisioned this program to be one that is both fun and educational; inspiring and challenging young people to get off the couch and become more physically fit and active.”
Southfield’s Let’s Move! efforts featured the Let’s Move Summer Fitness Camp that presented a different sports-related theme and different fitness activities for participants each week of the program from 2010-2012. The camp included an overview of proper stretching, yoga poses and healthy eating tips, with pool parties and other entertaining activities.
Each camp also served a batch of healthy snacks, like fresh fruits and vegetables from local vendors.
After three summers and dozens of camp sessions, Lawrence said, launching the program in Southfield met the first lady’s vision of adopting holistic health strategies and her own goal to get the community’s youth moving.
“I’m happy to report that (the camp) was successful in achieving that goal,” she said.
The camp was open to all Southfield students and also children of parents who work or worship in the city. Previous years drew upwards of 80 children, ages 8-12, according to Marty Williams, assistant to the mayor.
Sponsored by local businesses and organizations, Community Relations Manager Michael Manion said, the program was a hit in Southfield because it played on teamwork.
“The first lady’s initiative rolled out across the country to get cities, counties, even states to have families be active and learn about nutrition. It was really successful (in Southfield) because (Lawrence) got community partnerships together and made it fun in such a way that the kids enjoyed doing things like exercising,” he said. “That was the best part of the idea.”
This is not the first time the mayor’s dedication toward offering community health programs has been recognized. In 2011, The American Heart Association made an exception when handing out its annual Gold Level Fit Friendly Company award by presenting the honor to the city that summer. The award commended initiatives like the Mayor’s Walks: A Healthy City is a Strong City, which have being going for 12 years now, as well as the Let’s Move! camps.
The Mayor’s Walks are still in session, with a 6:45 a.m. warm-up, followed by a 30 minute walk at 7 a.m., each Monday, Wednesday and Friday until Aug. 2. According to Williams, the hope is to also offer a one-day summer fitness camp for youths this year, though no date has been officially set.
During the White House celebration, the first lady said her main mission was to express gratitude to the leaders who went above and beyond to include healthy living on their agendas.
“I know that it is not easy to be you, to do what you do. You all are pulled in so many directions. You’re dealing with tighter and tighter budgets. You’re working to keep your local economies humming and your neighborhoods thriving. And of course, you’re trying to keep everyone safe,” she said in her speech.
“Yet even with all of that on your plate, you all have still made the health of our young people a priority. And you’re doing it in new and innovative ways that touch so many parts of your communities.”
For more information on health initiatives in the city, visit www.cityofsouthfield.org.
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