Community Builders

Working Out for Kids

It's a common sight every day all over America: People drive up to a health club, get out and head inside for a workout. After exercising, they emerge and head back to the neighborhood they call home.

Often located in areas surrounded by other businesses, instead of by neighbors, many health clubs have a difficult time establishing an identity within the communities they serve. That's why American Family Fitness, in Richmond, Va., chose to establish an identity through community service.

For 10 years, the fitness chain has carried on a proud tradition of giving back to the community and getting its membership involved at the same time. In fact, American Family Fitness's five facilities conduct an annual Fitness Challenge to raise money for Children's Hospital, a specialty pediatric facility with the mission of providing health care to children and financial assistance when needed. The hospital serves more than 8,000 children each year.

“I was blessed to have a very normal childhood with all the benefits of parents who were able to let me be involved in lots of activities,” says Brian Evans, president of American Family Fitness Centers. “These kids who are being treated at Children's Hospital, for whatever reason, are sometimes unable to enjoy a lot of the routine parts of being a kid.”

When signing up for the Fitness Challenge, club members choose five activities out of 10, get sponsors to pledge money and then complete the tasks within a one-week period. Evans also kicks in money. The activities are: 60 minutes of racquetball; 30 minutes of basketball; 30 minutes of swimming; 60 minutes in an aquatics class; 60 minutes in an exercise class; 45 minutes of weight training; 45 minutes on the cardio equipment; 45 minutes of cross training; 30 minutes of stretching/abs; and 30 minutes of karate/yoga.

The first challenge raised $9,000, which was used to purchase a microscope for the hospital. The second year, $10,856 was raised and used to buy arthroscopy equipment. The third year generated $12,000, which paid for a vital signs monitor, and this year's amount, $15,873, was used to help pay for Therapy Enrichment Camps during the summer.

The camps help children enrolled in therapy for motor and/or language skills, as well as for children who need enrichment in these areas. “Each camp is led by licensed pediatric therapists who coordinate daily activities,” says Kristin Stemhagen, Children's Hospital of Richmond's director of public relations.

“We really enjoy getting to help the kids in our community,” Evans says. “The Fitness Challenge is something we will definitely continue doing, and we are always looking for other ways to get our membership involved.”


Has your club done something in your community that you're proud of? Have you gone beyond the call of duty to help a member overcome numerous obstacles? If so, we want to know about it. Contact Renée Cocchi at Club Industry, Community Builders, One Plymouth Meeting, Suite 501, Plymouth Meeting, PA 19462. E-mail: [email protected] Fax: (610) 238-0992

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