Plans For Children's Fitness/Wellness Center In Hartford Unveiled
By MARWA ELTAGOURI
May 31, 2013
Congressman John B. Larson, First Lady Cathy Malloy and Family Life Education are well underway with their battle against what they call the silent killer of children: obesity.
Plans for a new state-of-the-art Children's Fitness/Wellness Center in Hartford – estimated at $500,000 – were released Friday morning at the Family Life Education building, where the facility will be built. The purpose of the facility is to provide low-income urban families with free access to comprehensive fitness and health programs, said executive director Candida Flores.
More than a third of Hartford's three-year-olds and 23 percent of kindergarteners are overweight, according to a 2012 study conducted by the University of Connecticut's Center for Public Health and Health Policy. Of the 1,586 children measured, 17 percent were classified as overweight and 20 percent as obese – statistics that are double the normal distribution for that age group.
"We can't allow an entire generation to suffer the physical and psychological consequences that come with obesity," Flores said.
The facility will focus on three major areas: childhood obesity, nutrition and child development.
A kitchen will offer healthy cooking classes, where chefs and cooking organizations will instruct families on recipes for nutritional breakfasts, Flores said. To address cognitive and physical development, family-oriented fitness classes, education programs, dance and zumba classes as well as a community garden will be open to the public.
The next step – and the most difficult component of building the facility – is to launch a fundraising campaign to renovate ground floor of the Family Life Education building, where the facility will be housed. Family Life Education plans to collect donations from long-time supporters and institutions like Aetna, and has already received a grant toward the facility's rent from the Hartford Foundation, Flores said.
The facility should be cost-efficient once it's built, Flores said, as it will be funded through classes and programs taught by My City Kitchen and the Hartford Ballroom Dance Studio, among other organizations.
While the facility will be free of charge for low-income families, it's multi-focus room for childrens' gatherings and celebrations will be rented out to families who can afford it. Since the facility will be located below the Family Life Education office, families can feel comfortable enough to visit the center, Flores said.
Said Flores: "It's a program that can be replicated throughout the Connecticut and the nation."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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