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Early child physical fitness push comes to Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON, D.C. (4 May, 2005) – Congressmen Mark Udall and Zach Wamp, co-chairs of the Congressional Fitness Caucus, join Sarah Greene, President and CEO of the National Head Start Association (NHSA), Alicia Procello, NikeGO Program Manager, NIKE, Inc. and John Thompson III, Head Coach, Men's Basketball, Georgetown University, for the Washington D.C. launch of the NikeGO Head Start Initiative - a first-of-its-kind program to get preschoolers more physically active.

“As childhood obesity continues to rise we need to take every opportunity to teach and reinforce exercise and nutrition to our nation's children. Educating our children at an early age about responsible nutrition and exercise habits will help put them on a lifetime journey of good health and wellness. Head Start has a proven track record for improving the lives of America's young people, and I'm excited about the partnership between NikeGO and the National Head Start Association,” said Congressman Udall.

The Initiative is built upon a six-year relationship between Nike and the National Head Start Association. Nike, currently the largest private funder of NHSA, will issue a series of one-year grants, with specific performance requirements, totaling $2.5 million over five years.

“I commend Nike for taking the initiative to help promote increased physical activity for Head Start students,” said Congressman Earl Blumenauer. “We already know what a positive difference Head Start makes in helping kids learn to read and do well in school. With a renewed emphasis on exercise, Head Start students will also learn to enjoy physical fitness.”

“The human body was made to move,” said Congressman Wamp. “We need to start teaching that principle in the early years when children are impressionable. With ten percent of American 2 to 5 year olds being overweight, it's time we all help them trade their junk food for jumping jacks and their Barney videos for bouncing balls. Partnerships such as the Nike and Head Start venture will help parents and teachers improve the whole child - in both body and mind.”

In partnership with SPARK (Sports, Play and Active Recreation for Kids) and the National Head Start Association (NHSA), NikeGO Head Start brings a quality early childhood physical activity program to preschoolers in the Head Start community. With receptions in Chicago, Los Angeles and now in Washington, D.C., NikeGO Head Start is piloting 80 programs in eight different cities this year, initially training 320 teachers to serve an estimated 30,000 Head Start preschoolers.

“Today, more than 10 percent of American children ages 2 to 5 are overweight, which brings with it greater risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other serious health problems,” said Alicia Procello, NikeGO Program Manager. “The goal of NikeGO Head Start is to enhance children’s love for physical activity, to involve their parents and families in leading physically active lives and to help prevent sedentary lifestyles before they ever take hold.”

As part of the Initiative, Head Start instructors will receive a “playbook” of activities that are fun, inclusive, developmentally appropriate and aligned with Head Start Child Outcomes. From “Knees Up Mother Brown” to “Beanbag Boogie,” parents and children will learn how ordinary objects like socks and scarves can be used for movement and physical activity.

“While Head Start is a Federal program, much of its success can be attributed to support from foundations, individuals and companies like Nike,” said Sarah Greene, President and CEO, NHSA. “Since 1965, Head Start has provided education, health, nutrition and parent involvement services to low-income children and their families. We are very excited to introduce a new component in our comprehensive approach to empower community members to adopt lifelong wellness practices.”

NikeGO Head Start recognizes parents play a critical role in raising healthy children and provides them with the resources to replicate the program’s activities in the home. In addition to receiving the Playbook and SPARK training, participating Head Start sites will receive Nike donated equipment necessary to implement the program – including parachutes, easy-to-catch balls, beanbags and balance beams.

NikeGO Head Start is one of several NikeGO initiatives designed to increase the participation of young people in physical activity as a means to improve their lives. These range from NikeGO Afterschool programs at Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCAs and local Parks and Recreation organizations, to collaborations with Indian Health Service to fight diabetes among Native American youth, to national and regional advocacy initiatives such as Shaping America's Youth. Last year, NikeGO programs reached over 150,000 kids in 60 U.S. cities with ongoing, in–depth programs. NikeGO's goal is to get kids active for at least 30 minutes at a time, several times a week, making sure every child feels successful and has fun in his or her activity.

About NikeGO NikeGO is Nike's signature U.S. community affairs initiative and the company's long-term commitment to getting kids more physically active. The program's mission is to increase physical activity in youths, offering them the support and motivation to become physically active, stay healthy and have fun. In its most recent fiscal year, Nike contributed more than $10.5 million in cash and products and served more than 150,000 kids through its programs and partnerships. Visit www.nikego.com for additional information.

About SPARK SPARK (Sports, Play and Active Recreation for Kids) is a research-based physical activity program dedicated to creating, implementing, and evaluating programs that promote lifelong wellness. Visit www.sparkpe.org or call 1-800SPARKPE or e-mail: spark@sparkpe.org for more information.

About NHSA The National Head Start Association is a private not-for-profit membership organization dedicated exclusively to meeting the needs of Head Start children and their families. It represents more than 1 million children, 200,000 staff and 2,600 Head Start programs in the United States. The Association provides support for the entire Head Start community by advocating for policies that strengthen services to Head Start children and their families; by providing extensive training and professional development to Head Start staff; and by developing and disseminating research, information, and resources that enrich Head Start program delivery.

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