Local Boys & Girls Club receives award


Published: Monday, May 27, 2013 at 9:10 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, May 27, 2013 at 9:10 p.m.

Four million.

That's the number of children registered with Boys & Girls Clubs across America and on military bases worldwide, said Keith Blanchard, Boys & Girls Club of Alachua County chief professional officer and president.

Of those 4 million children, at least 3,500 belong to the Alachua County Boys & Girls Club, which provides resources to children regardless of their financial backgrounds.

In early May, the Boys & Girls Club of Alachua County received its third honor award, this time for Health and Life Skills, at the Boys & Girls Clubs of America's 107th National Conference in Orlando. The local club also received a $5,000 award from MetLife Foundation.

“They ran one heck of a program and produced results,” said Jan Still-Lindeman, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America senior director of public relations. “It means that you guys that are bigger than them should be able to do this program hands-down.”

Overall, the country has 4,000 clubs, including those on military bases, and five different clubs in Gainesville alone, Blanchard said.

“The magnitude of it kind of gets to you,” Blanchard said.

The honor award recognizes the Boys & Girls Club of Alachua County's programming success, which includes Club FIT, a health program that ran last summer from June to August, said Natalya Bannister, the local club's director of operations and Club FIT creator.

Club FIT was created to address obesity and inactivity in the Woodland Park community, Bannister said.

“It's amazing that we were able to win and impact the kids who need it most,” she said. “They're actually getting the top programming in the entire country.”

Club FIT had five components: parent involvement, competition, health education, active play and exercise.

“The hard part was actually getting the kids engaged,” Bannister said.

Bannister connected with the University of Florida Athletics Association and had members of the basketball, football and women's track teams volunteer.

“Kids actually started to see exercise and fitness as a fun thing, rather than something they had to do,” she said. “They all started eating more nutritious foods. Rather than chips and soda, they were choosing apples and water.”

UF was involved in other aspects of the program, too.

One of the official tutoring sites for the UF College of Education is the Boys & Girls Club of Alachua County, and the UF College of Nursing also held health education classes.

“We've always had a great relationship with the university, and it just continues to grow,” Blanchard said.

Now, Blanchard looks toward the future.

“We're already thinking about 2014 and going for the next one and what it's going to take,” he said.

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