Families For Fitness Helps Build Healthy Lifestyles

A local healthy lifestyle program for kids has received a validation in the form of a $15,000 grant from the Greater Toledo Community Foundation’s (GTCF) Equity & Access Initiative Fund. Families for Fitness, Inc., which emphasizes changing behaviors over diet and exercise, has offered in-class and after-school programs since 2011.

“We work on cause and effect,” explained Families for Fitness Executive Director Marsha Hill.

Marsha Hill, executive director of Families for Fitness.

The program offers health and fitness classes to elementary school students, with a message of replacing bad behaviors with good. “We try to emphasize the good things kids are doing – naturally – and then build upon that.”

Making good choices, getting more exercise

In-class programs are 8 weeks in length, focusing on one topic (such as hydration, food choices, reading food labels and the importance of sleep) each week. In addition, professional trainers are there to lead fitness activities. After-school programs are centered on physical activity, indoors and outdoors, 2 or 3 days per week, with leadership from trainers.

Programs are currently underway with Springfield Schools (meeting at Holland Elementary) and Toledo Public Schools (TPS) (meeting at the Martin Luther King Academy for Boys). A program will begin next spring at Holloway Elementary School. Families for Fitness has collaborated with the Ohio State University Extension Service, Mercy Health and the TPS program Partners with A Purpose in developing programming. Monnettes Market has provided fruit treats for some of the classroom programs.

“We’re trying to change the environment for kids,” Hill said. The program is committed to addressing health disparities (such as youth obesity) and fostering well-being among marginalized youth and families. “For kids, obesity can lead to bullying, depression and isolation. We’ve designed this program so kids can blow off steam. They need to be able to step away for a time.”

Funding the organization

Equity & Access Initiative Fund grants are made to nonprofit organizations that are working to remove barriers that impact marginalized communities. Grants focus on organizations’ nonprofit capacity, economic development, employment or advocacy. Hill said the funding will help Families for Fitness to take the next steps for future growth in 3 areas: strengthening administrative and development efforts, revitalizing programming and expanding community reach.

“We have just recently been able to get back into schools after the pandemic,” Hill said.

The extended break meant revision of some of the organization’s programming, and re-connecting with partners, teachers and parents.

The grant also offers the opportunity for the organization to have its own facility. “It’s difficult to have time with parents, to continue our training after the school programs,” Hill said. “Having a facility will allow us to expand our programming to more communities while adding staff to lead programs there and at schools.” 

Hill surveys parents and teachers to measure the impact of the program on kids’ behavior and attitudes about diet and exercise. She’ll even send a recipe home with kids at the end of the week’s program.

Families for Fitness is hosting a fundraiser on November 25. The “Crowns, Bows and Pearls” brunch will take place at The Pinnacle, Maumee. And schools interested in adding Families for Fitness programs to their school day should contact Hill directly at 419-917-2557 or fam4fitinc@yahoo.com.

“By collaborating and thinking inclusively, we can creatively address our community’s challenges,” said Greater Toledo Community Foundation President Keith Burwell in making the grant. “This grant reflects our shared commitment to creating a healthier, more equitable Toledo.”

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