Molina Healthcare of Florida has teamed up with the University of South Florida since September to offer a Partnership for Healthy Living program that promotes healthy living, exercise and education for low-income children in the Tampa Bay area. Not only are the children learning about health and exercise through this program, they also have the chance to experience an “inside look” at college athletics by meeting players and coaches.
“It’s an opportunity for some of our under-privileged children to get a chance to go and see a college game, get a feel of how it is to be behind the scenes of a college game, get an opportunity to go out on the field—it’s just a good opportunity for the community partners we work with,” said Angela Blaylock, Molina Healthcare’s community outreach manager.
Molina and USF choose children between the ages of 8 and 12 to participate in the program, and each child receives tickets to either attend USF football games this fall or men’s basketball games in the winter. Children are selected from various organizations around the community, including the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay, Project LINK, and Heaven Destiny Church.
According to Blaylock, the program is beneficial for children who might not have the opportunity to learn about exercise or healthy living practices on their own.
“Obesity is such a huge problem for our youth today, and I mean, if you start young, hopefully it will carry over into adulthood,” Blaylock said. “It’s important to be healthy, it’s important to exercise, and it’s really important to have that whole feel.”
Children who are picked to participate in the program arrive at the game early and get the chance to go through the players tunnel at Raymond James Stadium, interact with some of the USF players, and ask questions from members of the USF Athletics department. Prior to the game, the children are recognized in front of the crowd by delivering the game ball to the referees.
Jason, of Seminole Heights, attended the Ball State vs. University of South Florida football game this season. It was his first time attending a college football game.
“At the game, I liked the on-field experience the most,” said Jason, whose last name could not be printed. “I liked it the best because I got a chance to experience the actual body-size of the USF players.”
Jason said he also enjoyed the informational side of the program, including learning healthy eating and living practices.
“I’ve learned that eating healthy has a major role in life because if you don’t eat healthy, you will not be in shape to do physical things,” he said.