My definition of leadership is someone who gets something done. Read on for the inspiring story (written by Tamara Fagin) of Ashley Riley who saw something that needed to get done and did it in her Silicon Valley community. And watch…I think Fit Kids will be coming to a schoolyard near you soon—maybe because you’ll be the leader to make it happen.
As we all prepare to overeat those Thanksgiving goodies, what better time to promote kids’ fitness?
With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I thought it would be appropriate to pay homage and give thanks to Ashley Riley, one woman—a busy mom of four children under 11(!)—who is “doing it”. That is, creating a movement to bring health and fitness through active play to all kids.
I met Ashley in late August of this year. It was kismet—my good fortune. I had decided to look for part-time “community organizer” work, and she was looking for someone to help with her 5th child, her precious baby, Fit Kids.
Ashley founded Fit Kids in January of 2011 based on a simple premise that healthy activity and food should not just be for the affluent kids on the west side of the Peninsula but a right of all kids—regardless of ethnicity and socioeconomic or immigration status.
“Why?” Ashley pondered, “should a child born on this side of Highway 101 have different access to healthy activity and nutrition than their brothers and sisters in East Palo Alto and East Menlo Park (aka Belle Haven)? How can those of us in-the-know turn our backs on those children?”
Indeed, how can we who are living through and benefitting from the modern Gold Rush of Silicon Valley 2.0 just stand by while kids only miles from our own go without healthy after school activities and food?
How can those of us who drive our Teslas, Mercedes and Lexuses from Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Atherton, and Los Altos through East Menlo Park to Facebook Headquarters and other technology giants on the other side of Highway 101, fail to notice what is going on in those neighborhoods, schools and communities we pass by?
Some basic facts will give you the picture. According to the School Accountability Report Card for 2010-2011, 96.5% of the students enrolled in the Belle Haven (East Menlo Park) school district are socioeconomically disadvantaged and 84.1% are English language learners. At one representative school in the district, Green Oaks, 89% are considered low income and 49% of parents did not graduate from high school.
How many folks stop and think about those kids and what kind of enriching after school activities they are signed up for? How many wonder what is in those free school lunches and breakfasts and snacks? How many give a damn about whether those kids are getting enough exercise and are healthy? Whether they are or will be productive and healthy model citizens?
Ashley simply gave a damn. No, that is not quite right. While many might be moved by these circumstances to give generously to a worthy non-profit, like the Boys & Girls Club, Ashley had a simple yet crazy beautiful idea.
Why not bring free after school fitness and nutrition classes to these kids where they are? Why not conduct these Fit Kids sessions on their home turf—at their schools, on their playgrounds, at their afterschool care centers or clubs? No transportation required. No
nanny or stay-at-home or part-time parent required to participate. No extra funds or special shoes, equipment or uniforms required.
Ashley consulted with fitness, nutrition, coaching and child development experts. She sought out expert opinions from leading pediatricians such as Dr. Avery Faigenbaum, sports medicine and nutrition experts such as Dr. Clyde Wilson and children’s fitness
experts such as Russ Nuffer.
With laser-like focus and intention, in less than two years she created a Fit Kids movement that delivers FREE after school fitness programs to over 750 kids in the under-served communities of East Palo Alto, East Menlo Park and Redwood City.
So, Ashley saw a problem, found a solution and went bold. She went big. She drank her own healthy Kool-Aid and started The Fit Kids Foundation with the support of her circle of friends and family.
Thanks to Ashley and the tireless work of the amazing Fit Kids coaches, board of directors and team—Fit Kids is becoming an incredible force in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond.
As Ashley often says, “You know, I think we are really on to something.” Sister—you have no idea how big this is going to be.
I’m so proud to be a part of it. Thank you on behalf of all the kids and communities you serve and will serve.
Happy Thanksgiving Day.
To learn more about Fit Kids, please visit www.fitkids.org If you like Fit Kids, please help us get the word out there – fitness, health and good nutrition is a basic right of every child – help us make this so.
P.S. If you are looking for something healthy for you and/or your fit kids or grandkids to do on Thanksgiving Day, please look for your local Turkey Trot. Fit Kids will be at the Applied Materials Silicon Valley Turkey Trot in San Jose, CA this Thanksgiving Day. Please look for the author and her family at the Fit Kids obstacle course.
TAMARA FAGIN resides in Los Altos, California with an active elementary school duo and a great mensch of a husband with an even greater sense of humor. She is a dedicated community organizer and is the current Director of Development of Fit Kids in Menlo Park, CA. She is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and Harvard Law School. She loves to cycle, hike, cook, read, watch sports and hang out with her awesome friends and family. This is her third blog article.