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United Way Blog

Detroit Tackles Childhood Obesity

Video edited and produced by Kory Woods

Community Blog

By Jason Johnson
Senior, Eastern Michigan University

Since 2007, 12.4 percent of Michigan children have suffered from childhood obesity. Many have pegged this problem as an epidemic given it has serious consequences if not addressed properly. The causes are genetics, lack of knowledge about good nutrition and the benefits of physical activity. But the lack of finances also has to be taken into consideration. Choosing the healthy options over less expensive fast food makes the fight to live healthier hard for some. However, great effort is being put forth in Detroit, Michigan to offer kids healthier options and increased opportunities to play.

Saturday, October 8 kicked off GMC’s Monday Night Football Tour in the Detroit Metropolitan Area. To wrap up this four-day tour, a day of service was planned on October 11 to help Detroit kids live a healthier life with a United Way Healthy Kids Zone—Driven by GMC.

It took approximately 50 volunteers working together to complete the play space in a matter of hours. I, being one of those 50, truly enjoyed constructing the Healthy Kids Zone. It is absolutely amazing the things that can be accomplished when dedicated people come together to achieve a goal. The day started early with a bare ground that had a few pre-drilled holes in it. Volunteers huddled up, a play was drawn, and we were off wrenching away to complete the build. No penalty flags were thrown as the weather was nothing but perfect.

As the sledge hammers were swinging, Detroit Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew stopped by to lend a helping hand. He was instrumental in the construction efforts and his high level of determination was felt by everyone. Brandon displayed great teamwork skills and even provided us with a pep talk during a break. In addition to Brandon, GMC’s Vice President of Marketing, Tony DiSalle, shared a few words of encouragement. In my opinion, it was great to see how sincere he was about playing a key role in promoting healthier living among Detroit children. Many other notables, like representatives from the Detroit Department of Recreation made appearances to gives thanks for the great gift.

Timing is everything. This project was started after the area children went to school and reached completion just before school was dismissed. To see how the space was transformed gave me a great sense of fulfillment. I can only imagine the look on the kids’ faces as they walked home from school that evening. Building the Healthy Kids Zone proved that phenomenal things happen when people come together for good. My hat is off to United Way and GMC for helping to make our communities better.