Presented by GroundFloor Media on May 18, 2015

gsk_recap“Being healthy is a journey, not a sprint,” chanted Mayor Michael B. Hancock (pictured) to a crowd of nearly 200 people at a community event at Stapleton Recreation Center in the Globeville neighborhood Northeast of Denver on May 14. Community activists, local politicians, media representatives and enthusiastic youth and their families gathered to celebrate the culmination of the Youth-Driven Healthy Recreation Centers Collective Grant powered by Denver Parks and Recreation; Share Northeast Denver LiveWell; Globeville, Elyria-Swansea LiveWell; Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters; the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation; Spark Policy Institute; GSK; the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Denver; LiveWell Colorado; and Earth Force. The 18-month, youth-driven programming, funded by a $500,000 grant from GSK, focused on healthy eating, increased physical activity and group collaboration.

“Our young people are the most important asset that we have,” said Councilman Albus Brooks (pictured below). “We will keep investing in you because we want you to stay healthy and engaged so you can continue to improve the lives of others in your communities.”

The animated crowd enjoyed a meal prepared by the youth with the support of Share our Strength’s Cooking Matters program, which included healthy items such as hummus and veggies, bison meatballs, and brownies made with black beans instead of flour. The youth participants also came up with the idea to create centerpieces made from fresh fruit skewers to further communicate the importance of healthy eating and from-scratch cooking.

gsk_recap2Another highlight of the evening included three dance routines from the newly formed !mpact Dance Ensemble at St. Charles Recreation Center. The program was created to engage female youth participants through dance while also providing support on issues such as body image, low self-confidence, and conflict resolution. While none of the girls had any formal dance training before this program, they moved the crowd to their feet with their sophisticated choreography, their elaborate outfits and the pure joy of knowing and showing what they had accomplished.

“We are so proud to see these kids doing something they’ve never done before,” said Katie Loovis, director, U.S. community partnerships and stakeholder engagement for GSK. “My heart is filled with pride as we watch these young people challenge themselves and transform into leaders.”

The most engaging opportunity for the youth was when they presented their programs, ideas, and results to the crowd during individual breakout sessions, which allowed them to truly connect with their audience. Some of the early results include:

  • 92% of the youth are eating more fruits and vegetables
  • 85% of the youth are trading their electronic devices for physical activities
  • 70% of the youth are cooking meals with their families
  • A significant increase in the number of youth attending recreation centers. All together, this project has contributed to a 256% increase in youth attendance at St. Charles; 387% increase at Stapleton; and a 975% increase at Swansea Recreation Center
  • A new picnic structure has been selected by the youth at Swansea Recreation Center and will be installed by Denver Parks and Recreation
  • A teen room built at Stapleton Recreation Center, where the youth have also designed and painted two murals, one in the teen room and one in the gym

gsk_recap_3newCommunity leaders also celebrated the tremendous success of the MY Denver Program as an important and continuing component of the revitalization of area recreation centers. Participation in the MY Denver Program at Swansea Recreation Center increased by 975% since the collective began and 67,000 kids are now signed up across all recreation centers.

At the event, GSK announced that the collective model Denver organizations utilized to maximize the investment by GSK will be replicated in the next three markets to receive similar grants throughout the U.S.

“It has been an honor to collaborate with such prolific Denver-area organizations, and achieve measurable, substantial impact focused on improving the lives of our youngest citizens,” said Gabriel Guillaume, LiveWell Colorado executive vice president of programs and strategies. “I’m so proud of our kids, our community organizations, and our politicians for their tireless support of this program and never-ending desire to improve the communities we call home.”