What is it?
The YMCA is developing functional partnerships across the Phoenix community and will arrange multiple programs for our youth, families, and veterans to experience America’s Great Outdoors in new and exciting ways. The initiative was put into place to bridge the growing disconnect between today’s youth and the natural world while also fighting to lower childhood obesity rates.
Why are we involved?
The Valley of the Sun YMCA’s role is to act as a liaison for organizations in Arizona and bring them together to cultivate successful, recurring outdoor programs for youth, families, and veterans. These programs will ideally lead to a healthier future for the young people in our state. We want to ensure that members the Phoenix community can have healthy minds, bodies, and spirits, no matter the circumstances.
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Over the past three decades, the nation’s childhood obesity rates have tripled, and this has increased the chances for youth to develop chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and asthma at some point in their lives. Studies show that children need 60 minutes or more of daily physical activity to stay healthy. Parents, government officials, schools and many other entities play an important role in ensuring that children spend enough time exercising every day. Being active outside can not only enhance a child’s overall health, but it can also improve their behavior and academic performance. Being outdoors can also allow them to reach their physical potential while helping them appreciate and experience the natural environment around them.
The Let’s Move! Outside initiative is designed to provide youth, families and veterans with opportunities to engage with the community and develop a dedication to the Great Outdoors through service projects, recreation and environmental education. We can raise a healthier generation by inspiring children and their families to make healthy choices while also creating meaningful connections to nature. It is up to the entire community to pave the way to a healthier future for our children.
The YMCA is dedicated to bringing the initiative’s four pillars, “Play, Learn, Serve, and Work,” to communities here in Arizona.
Play. Develop partnerships with recreation areas to produce programs for everyone to play outside.
Learn. Provide educational programs to K-12 students.
Serve. Promote community involvement and the desire to serve.
Work. Create work, training, and volunteering opportunities for veterans and young adults.
The U.S. Department of the Interior is leading First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Outside, which is part of her greater Let’s Move! initiative. The Department is partnered with the National League of Cities and sponsored by the American Express Foundation. YMCAs across the country are responsible for convening among organizations in their community and implementing the initiative by creating successful partnerships.
The initiative is being executed in 50 major cities across the nation. It was started in 25 cities in 2015 and spread to another 25 in 2016, including Phoenix, AZ. Over the next two years, the Y will be acting as a catalyst for partnerships and programs that can grow and continue on their own. For now, programs will be focused in the greater Phoenix area and will hopefully spread north to Flagstaff in the upcoming year.
On April 9, we held a kick-off event that featured remarks by City of Phoenix Mayor, Greg Stanton, and the Valley of the Sun’s Chief Operating Officer, Tom Brinsko. The day’s message focused on the importance of reigniting our community’s love of nature and volunteering. During this event, youth and teen leaders from the YMCA volunteered by picking up trash and planting trees across a 32-acre park in Downtown Phoenix. The day was a great success, and it got everyone excited about future Let’s Move! Outside events and volunteer opportunities. You can take a look at a video of the event on the City of Phoenix’s YouTube channel.
As of now, the YMCA is looking for community leaders that are interested in this initiative and would be willing to commit to a position on our Steering Committee. This committee will be a collaborative group that will turn possibility into reality by making lasting partnerships throughout the state.
Coming up on October 27, 2016, the YMCA and our Steering Committee will be hosting a Summit where community members from the outdoor and youth development arenas will be able to meet and discuss the possible partnerships for the Let’s Move! Outside initiative in Arizona. The Summit will allow community leaders to collaborate and brainstorm for new, creative ideas to help children, families, and veterans get outdoors.