First Lady gets millions of hours of fitness services for military families; President’s Council superstars will offer special events for military families...
On Monday afternoon on the South Lawn, First Lady Michelle Obama hosted her first event that combined Let's Move!, her childhood obesity campaign, with her recently launched Joining Forces campaign to support military families. Accompanied by members of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition (PCFSN), Mrs. Obama announced a major new fitness industry partnership that will offer free personal training services and gym memberships to those who are part of America's armed forces, particularly National Guard and Reserve families. (Top: At the event, Mrs. Obama does the "Pit crew Challenge," an on obstacle course; in inset, Council members Grant Hill of the Suns and tennis legend Billie Jean King watch the First Lady toss the pigskin)
Mrs. Obama also announced a new focus for the members of the PCFSN: They'll be working with military families this summer. About eighty members of National Guard and Reserve families were on hand for the announcement, which was followed by an hour of running, jumping and dancing on the South Lawn.
"They’re aiming to offer more than 100,000 free memberships -- the equivalent of more than 18 million free days of access to gyms and health clubs across the country," Mrs. Obama said about one new partner, the International Health, Racquet and Sports Club Association. The memberships will be offered to families of actively deployed National Guard and Reservists. (Above: Mrs. Obama, surrounded by PCFSN members)
The American Council on Exercise has committed to a goal of providing at least 1 million hours of personal training and fitness instruction to the same group, Mrs. Obama said, adding that the donated services are just one way the nation can show support for the families of members of the armed forces.
"You all are truly the force behind the force," Mrs. Obama told her guets. "When out troops serve, we all serve, and it's time we started serving in return."
The new fitness deals are for young and old, she noted.
"While we’re focused on dealing with the epidemic of childhood obesity, this has got to be a family effort because kids follow our examples," Mrs. Obama said.
The First Lady was clad in a sleeveless shirt that highlighted her now-famous guns as she stood at a podium and announced the new project, and she squinted in the bright afternoon sun. For a campaign that focuses on health, which has frequent has outdoor events, it's odd that hats are not required Let's Move! gear. But Mrs. Obama's military guests, child and adult, wore special bright blue t-shirts with the President's Council crest.
The PALA challenge and other projects...
PCFSN members will be fanning out across the US this summer to work with military families, Mrs. Obama said. They'll also be helping military families achieve the President’s Active Lifestyle Award (PALA). Earning the award requires a half hour of exercise for adults and one hour for children, five days a week for six weeks. (Above: Olympian Michelle Kwan cheers Mrs. Obama on)
"We want to have one million Americans to earn a PALA award by next September," Mrs. Obama said.
Council members at the event included tennis great Billie Jean King, chef Dan Barber, Olympians Dominique Dawes and Michelle Kwan, and NBA superstars Grant Hill of the Suns and Chris Paul of the Hornets.
"This past fall, I earned my PALA award, which I am very proud of. My trainer oversaw it," Mrs. Obama said. Her own personal trainer, Cornell McClellan, is an appointed Council member, and was at the event.
"If anybody wants to know who’s responsible for these arms -- it’s that guy," Mrs. Obama said, to laughter. She's worked with McClellan since 1997, and he also trains other White House staff, including Sam Kass.
Some of the other Council member projects: Former pro football player Tedy Bruschi will join several Wounded Warriors to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa, starting today. Champion NASCAR driver Carl Edwards will visit with military families across the US during his scheduled race weekends. (Above: McClellan looks on as Mrs. Obama and guests work out on the South Lawn)
Edwards told Obama Foodorama in an interview last year that his career was transformed after he started eating healthy food and working out. Edwards said his efforts originally caused teasing from his fellow drivers--until he started regularly blowing past them on the racetrack.
A call to action...
Mrs. Obama ended her remarks by thanking her sports pros and the fitness industry, and closed with a call to action.
"This is the kind of leadership we want to see from sports legends and sports organizations and food manufacturers and restaurant owners and chefs, and you name it -- everybody can step up and help out on this effort," Mrs. Obama said.
It'd be an interesting move for Mrs. Obama's childhood obesity campaign if the food industry decided to become as generous as the fitness industry and actually donate healthy foods to citizens. In a tight economy, with skyrocketing food prices, it could make a big difference. So far, the food industry has made long-term pledges to reformulate products and change labeling, but they've offered nothing that is the equivalent of what the fitness and sports industries have given the Let's Move! campaign. Mrs. Obama has gotten commitments from her sports partners for all kinds of free clinics across the US, from soccer through tennis to hockey.
After her announcement, Mrs. Obama was in top form as she ran through a South Lawn obstacle course made of hula hoops, cardboard boxes, and water jugs, joined by the military families, who whooped with excitement. The First Lady also tossed around a ball, and danced up a storm to blaring R&B music. (Above: Mrs. Obama dances; Dawes, in white pants, is at right)
The afternoon was the first South Lawn Series event of the summer, a project Mrs. Obama started last year to make the vast White House grounds available to local citizens for recreational activities. The full transcript of Mrs. Obama's remarks IS HERE.
UPDATE, May 13: The White House released a second video about the event:
The commitment details:
*The International Health Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), an organization whose membership consists of sportsclubs throughout the nation, will work with its members to offer free memberships to immediate family members (ages 13 and older, where applicable) of actively deployed reservists and National Guard members.
IHRSA "may also" provide additional benefits such as childcare, children’s programming, group classes, discounts for veterans, and discounts for active duty families, according to the East Wing. The organization's website will also offer a free digital subscription to Get Active! Magazine, a publication dedicated to promoting healthy living through exercise.
*The American Council on Exercise® (ACE®), an organization that works to certify and support fitness professionals, is committing to a goal of providing at least 1 million hours of personal training and fitness instruction to family members of actively deployed reservists and National Guard members.
About the President's Council on fitness, Sports & Nutrition:
The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition (PCFSN) promotes healthy lifestyles through fitness, sports and nutrition programs and initiatives that educate, engage and empower all Americans. PCFSN is a committee of volunteer citizens appointed by the President who serve in an advisory capacity through the Secretary of Health and Human Services. For more information about PCFSN, visit www.fitness.gov. For more information about the President’s Challenge Physical Activity and Fitness Awards Program or the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA), visit www.presidentschallenge.org.
*Top photo by Chuck Kennedy/White House; others by AP; White House video