School’s out, summer’s here and if you’re looking for a way for you and your kids to stay active, look no further! Fitness in the Park is back for its third year, running now through Sept. 18, bringing a series of classes to 13 parks in the city.
Residents of all ages have the chance to participate in such classes as Zumba, Latin salsa, hip-hop dance, self-defense and many more. Fitness in the Park is a program presented by the city of Worcester and sponsors including the YWCA, You Inc, and many more. The initiative was created to promote healthy eating, active living and community building in the city.
Maria Fernandez-Domique, director of public affairs at Blue Cross Blue Shield, says this program is all about “health justice, environmental justice, food justice and racial inequality.” Black and brown communities have the highest rate of inactivity, therefore programs such as this one are important in creating opportunities for underserved communities to be given access to services that promote healthy physical, social and mental health wellness.
AJ Stephens, also known as “Coach Beast,” taught the participants how to dribble and shoot at Basketball Skills and Drills at Bell Hill Park. He says he “just wants to see kids playing outside again.”
“I want to see more young girls come out, learn and engage in a sport,” Stephens added. He is the general manager for The Worcester Majors Basketball team who attended in support of the program and put on an amazing dance show at intermission.
For the people involved with the program, it’s clear that this is important work that will foster strong relationships between youth, the city, city officials and influencers that can help guide them and open their worlds to new opportunities.
There’s a sense that this programming can have a large impact in a young person’s life simply by teaching them how to make healthier choices, because when you move more you feel better, which contributes to one’s overall well being and happiness.
During the ribbon-cutting ceremony sponsors spoke about their passion for health and community structure. They are excited to continue this initiative and hope to see it get bigger for years to come. The YWCA is offering free memberships for the duration of the program to participants who attend three or more classes. Debra Hall, director of operations at the YWCA, laughed heartily as she said, “Come use our big pool!”
Acting City Manager Eric Batista came and shot some hoops with the kids, getting the crowd excited as he landed the very first shot he took. Batista shook hands and took pictures with participants, fondly reflecting on growing up on Belmont Hill.
“This program is for young people,” said Batista, “giving them a chance to connect and meet people in the spaces they live and grow in.”
For more information, visit https://www.worcesterma.gov/summer-fitness.