Children get in shape with Falcons

Photo by John Millikan

Photo by John Millikan

AMERICUS -- Chris Millman has been a busy man in recent days.

Millman, the Community Relations and Youth Programs Manager for the Atlanta Falcons, led four Gatorade Junior Training Camps over the period of two days last week at different Boys & Girls Clubs, with his third stop being Americus.

More than 30 children, grades third through fifth, participated in the hour-long session. A couple of members from the Falcons' organization were present, and the local Boys & Girls Club provided the rest of the volunteers.

The camp goes along with the NFL's Play 60, which according to NFL.com is "a national youth health and fitness campaign focused on increasing the wellness of young fans by encouraging them to be active for at least 60 minutes a day."

"This is very important," said Lori Clemons, Chief Professional Officer of the Boys & Girls Club of Americus/Sumter County. "We want to reduce childhood obesity and produce healthy youth to grow into healthy adults."

The camp had five different stations that focused on footwork, passing, catching and other movement drills.

Millman was at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Georgia and Georgia Heartland on Tuesday. After leaving Americus, he led a camp at the Macon-Bibb County Parks and Recreation.

"This is a program we do all across Georgia to promote youth fitness in the game of football," said Millman. "This is a simple way to show kids that football is a lot of fun for both boys and girls, and most importantly, to get the kids physically active. Georgia has the second-highest youth obesity rate in the country. The Atlanta Falcons are doing all we can to fight this issue."

Former board member Shirley Green-Reese, Ph.D., was the catalyst in bringing the Falcons to Americus. She learned of the camp coming to Fort Valley, and she asked if Millman could make another stop south.

"This is a very good day because it's important to the kids of Americus and Sumter County to give them an opportunity to know that, although they see it on TV, they can witness some of the things the Falcons are doing," she said. "These community projects they're doing -- the kids have really enjoyed it. We're hoping it will spread on down to Albany because they have never had it."

The children at the local Boys & Girls Clubs have already been participating in physical fitness, and Director of Operations Jimmy Green said the camp ties right in with their objectives.

"This is what we've been doing the whole summer," said Green. "We start off with our recreation program in the morning, and we also do a physical fitness test. We're doing Trial 1 now, and Trial 2 will be at the end of the summer. This helps them get in shape. They're moving around and stretching muscles. All of this should help them improve in Trial 2 at the end of the summer."

Millman said the Falcons put on similar camps throughout the year. He said the best way to prevent obesity is to get children in exercise mode at an early age.

"Right now, they're into the video game and TV era, so we try to get out to youth in elementary school and show them being outside and running around with your friends is a lot of fun," said Millman.

He said being around the children is the best part of running these camps.

"The most satisfaction without question is seeing the looks on their faces when we come out to clubs like these," said Millman. "This is the first time a lot of these kids have ever had anything like this. The opportunity to come makes it so gratifying."