By SARA ARTHURS

Staff Writer

The city of Findlay has received a $100,000 grant to combat childhood obesity by getting local kids active.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors awarded the grant at its 87th winter meeting in Washington, D.C. It’s part of the organization’s Childhood Obesity Prevention Award program, in partnership with American Beverage Foundation for a Healthy America.

The funding will be used to increase access to physical activity for children and youth, expanding the existing Keep Active, Keep Healthy program to offer programs throughout the year, not just during summer months.

Possible programs being considered, according to a city press release, include ice skating lessons at the Cube; other ice activities such as ice bowling; gym activities like pinball (a type of indoor baseball); as well as kickball, racquetball, wallyball and yoga.

Lisa Mansfield, the city’s recreation administrative supervisor, said Keep Active, Keep Healthy activities were launched two years ago, with officials going out to the parks to get kids active.

“Not all kids have the ability to come to the Cube or go to Emory Adams Park,” she said, so “why not bring the activities to their neighborhoods?”

Activities take place in neighborhoods and parks throughout the city. Mansfield, who is in her 40s, said she focuses on things that don’t require much organization, but that when she was a child they just “went out and did,” like kickball or whiffleball.

“What we say is, ‘Ditch the device. Come out and play with us,'” she said.

She said sometimes it’s hard to get the current generation of children to do this, but she’s gotten kids to start playing games. Sometimes parents and grandparents will be nearby watching, “just checking it out.”

Sometimes 50 to 75 kids turn out for an event, but other times it’s just five. But “even if we can reach five kids, that’s great,” Mansfield said.

And when one parent reported that her daughter didn’t like team sports but did enjoy obstacle courses, Mansfield made a course out of hula hoops and pool noodles. Kids see these ideas “and they’re things they can do at home. … Sometimes you just have to plant the seed.”

Mansfield said the city may also be able to get promotional materials, like a Frisbee a child can take home and play with in their own backyard.

Right now Keep Active, Keep Healthy is only offered in the summer, as the city doesn’t own any indoor facilities other than the ice rink. The grant might allow a partnership with one of the schools or the YMCA, Mansfield said.

Grant money will go toward equipment for expanded activities, fees for space rental, instructors as needed, transportation, equipment or exercise items to provide to children for home use. It will also be used to purchase gifts or prizes to promote participation in the program, and increased marketing.

“The grant will enable the city to remove a major barrier to participation — transportation,” the press release states. “The city plans to use a portion of the grant funds to provide transportation to increase access for those who most need it.”

Mansfield said both obesity and diabetes are issues in Hancock County.

The grant came about through former Mayor Lydia Mihalik’s involvement with the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

The other cities receiving grants are Los Angeles; Madison, Wisconsin; Richmond, Virginia: Flint, Michigan; and Monroe, Louisiana.

Arthurs: 419-427-8494

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Twitter: @swarthurs

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