I am so proud that GSK, a global healthcare company, has awarded LiveWell Colorado and six partners its first IMPACT grant of $500,000 to improve healthy eating and physical activity opportunities for youth in Globeville Elyria-Swansea and Northeast Denver. Today, more than 100 local leaders and neighborhood residents met at Swansea Recreation Center in Denver to celebrate this partnership and the potential to improve health in the community.

"The Youth-Driven Healthy Recreation Center Collective" will engage the neighborhoods’ young people and their families to increase participation in the local recreation centers. Part of what makes this initiative unique is that the youth will be mentored by local business leaders so they can effectively research and develop solutions to improve the recreation centers to get their peers more involved. The most compelling youth-led solutions will be funded and implemented, leaving sensible, sustainable solutions for a healthier community.

This amazing collective includes the following organizations: Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver, Earth Force, Globeville Elyria-Swansea LiveWell, GSK, LiveWell Northeast Denver, Share Our Strength Cooking Matters Colorado, Spark Policy Institute and The Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation. We’ll also be partnering with Denver Parks and Recreation Department, Denver Public Schools, local municipal leaders and many more.

LiveWell Colorado will play a "backbone" role in this collective, meaning we will coordinate this talented group of partners who will implement the work. Not only is this opportunity exciting for Denver, but the collective anticipates that this can be replicated in other communities throughout Colorado and across the country.

Today’s event was a testament to the passion and commitment from the collective, the community and Denver’s leaders. Mayor Michael B. Hancock and Councilman Albus Brooks each spoke about the momentum that has been building in the city around improving children’s health. In Denver, 31 percent of kids are overweight or obese, compared to 25 percent statewide, so this issue is already a major priority. Jamie Van Leeuwen PhD., Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor John W. Hickenlooper, reaffirmed Colorado’s commitment to becoming the healthiest state, and proclaimed March 13, 2014 as National Healthy Communities Day.

All of today’s speakers, including GSK Senior Vice President Dr. Bob Carr and Shale Wong from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, highlighted the environmental impacts on childhood obesity — the reality that where you live can determine your health and life expectancy. Access to healthy food and physical activity is a major barrier to healthy behaviors communities like Northeast Denver and Globeville Elyria-Swansea, which is why this initiative is so important.

The program today ended with a robust community conversation about how our collective efforts can leverage existing community assets and engage the most people for the highest level of impact. We learned that parents want to be involved in making healthy changes along with the kids, so whole families can partake in healthy activities together. We heard about potential partnerships to bring Zumba to more locations, and about the need to make recreational opportunities more tailored to students’ schedules.  While this was only the first of many community meetings to come, we’ve already gleaned some valuable insights.

The GSK IMPACT Grant will help LiveWell Colorado and all partners in this effort build the capacity of our organizations, work together for greater collective impact, allow our young people to be agents for change and create long-lasting community-wide improvements. We could not be more thrilled. Watch the video below to learn more.