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Fight Childhood Obesity With Miami-Dade's 'Fit-to-Play' Program

MIAMI-DADE (CBS4) – The Miami-Dade Parks and Recreation Department has jumped into the county's fight against childhood obesity.

As part of September's National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, Miami-Dade Parks has launched "Fit-to-Play: Health, Wellness and Obesity Prevention" Out-of-School program.

Kids, age 6-14, can enjoy fun, fully-supervised programming after school, with team sports and activities focused on nutrition and wellness, and develop their appreciation of nature, science and the cultural arts.

"As today's kids are prone to spending less time exercising and more time in front of the TV, computer, or video-game console, it is more important than ever that we encourage them to be more active and develop a healthier lifestyle," said Miami-Dade Parks Director Jack Kardys.

The impact of childhood obesity on children's physical health includes increased risk for pre-diabetes, heart disease, as well as bone and joint problems. Statistics also show that children who are overweight are at a higher risk of remaining overweight in adulthood.

Each "Fit-to-Play" session begins with homework help, followed by SPARK (Sports, Play and Active Recreation for Kids). SPARK is dedicated to improving the quantity and quality of physical activity for children, focusing on activities that develop and improve motor skills, movement knowledge, and social and personal skills.

With parental permission, Miami-Dade Parks will track key health indicators in children, such as blood pressure and Body Mass Index (BMI), assisting parents and children in making the correct decisions about their fitness and nutrition. Upon completion of the programs, participants will be able to know their fitness improvements which will be measured throughout the year.

Abraham Casares, 8, has been in the program for two years. "It helps me a lot to get energy and all that, so I like it," said Casares who also said he enjoys learning about healthy eating and of course playing sports.

The University of Miami UHealth System, a long-time partner of Miami-Dade Parks' "Fit-to-Play" Summer Camp and Out-of-School programs, serves as a year-round oversight of its health, wellness and obesity prevention initiatives.  UHealth also provides all of the health testing and education components for these programs, covering such topics as stress management, safety, BMI (Body Mass Index) testing, nutrition, and more.

Miami-Dade Parks' Fit-to-Play Out-of-School program operates Monday through Friday, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., from August 22, 2011 through June 7, 2012 at several sites.

Transportation is available to pick up the children at certain nearby schools and transport them to the program, for an additional charge, at select park sites only.

Miami-Dade Parks also offers these Specialized Out-of-School programs at select park sites:

 Miami-Dade Parks Disability Services' Out-of-School program for those with disabilities, ages 6-22, is funded by The Children's Trust, and is offered at six park sites --Camp Matecumbe, Tamiami, Westwind Lakes, Greynolds, Coral Estates, and Goulds. The program includes cultural arts, literacy, fitness, nutrition, hygiene, snacks, and field trips.

• Children, ages 6-16, interested in the arts can attend the out-of-school programs at African Heritage Cultural Arts Center, where they can learn instrumental and vocal music, dance, theatre, and visual art; and at Raices Cultural Arts Center at Miller Drive Park, where children, ages 6-14, learn dances from various Spanish-speaking countries, instrumental music training and arts and crafts. Transportation from select school locations is available for a weekly fee.

 In addition, the Deering Estate at Cutler offers out-of-school programming opportunities through the Estate's award winning Living Classroom.  Equipped with fossils, artifacts and tools, live or preserved specimens, photographs and simple laboratory experiments, the Estate's Education and Interpretive Staff use hands-on interdisciplinary curriculum in the fields of ecology, geology, marine biology, archaeology, history, and art.  The School Yard Science Program can be scheduled at any park or community center as part of an after school care program.  Classes are typically offered once weekly for a two hour session.  The EcoAcademy is taught onsite at the Deering Estate at Cutler and can be offered at the various nature centers upon request or through a home school program. For more information, please visit or call 305-235-1668, ext. 222.

There is no deadline to register, however parents are encouraged to register early before programs fill to capacity.  Affordable prices vary per park and parents must register directly with the individual park.  For more information, please visit Miami-Dade Parks' website at, or call 3-1-1 or any of its parks listed below.

Miami-Dade Parks is funded in part by The Children's Trust.

A list of Miami-Dade Parks Fit-to-Play: Health, Wellness and Obesity Prevention Out-of-School program sites follows below:

•       Arcola Park, 1680 NW 87 St., 305-835-7987 *
•       Arcola Lakes Park, 1301 NW 83 St., 305-836-5095
•       Country Village Park, 6550 NW 188 Terr., 305-622-2594
•       Gwen Cherry Park (Y.E.T.), 7090 NW 22 Ave., 305-694-4889
•       Highland Oaks Park, 20300 NE 24 Ave., 305-932-2164
•       Jefferson Reaves, Sr. Park, 3100 NW 50 St., 305-635-2081
•       Little River Park, 10525 NW 24 Ave., 305-694-5121
•       M. L. King, Jr. Park, 6100 NW 32 Ct., 305-633-2044 *
•       North Glade Park, 17355 NW 52 Ave., 305-621-2461
•       Olinda Park, 2101 NW 51 St., 305-633-4066
•       West Little River Park, 2326 NW 84 St., 305-694-5096
•       Bird Lakes Park, 14365 SW 48 Ln., 305-207-1644
•       Continental Park, 10000 SW 82 Ave., 305-274-9666
•       North Trail Park, 780 NW 127 Ave., 305-207-2420
•       Rockway Park, 9460 SW 27 Dr., 305-223-8769
•       Ron Ehmann Park, 10995 SW 97 Ave., 305-271-3853
•       Ruben Dario Park, 9825 W. Flagler St., 305-222-2194
•       Tropical Estates Park, 10201 SW 48 St., 305-226-5782
•       Westwind Lakes Park, 6805 SW 152 Ave., 305-388-4771
•       Cinco de Mayo Park, 19350 SW 384 St., 305-242-7930 *
•       Deerwood Bonita Lakes Park, 14445 SW 122 Ave., 305-234-1660
•       Devon Aire Park, 10411 SW 122 Ave., 305-270-4951
•       Eureka Villas Park, 14301 SW 180 St., 305-254-5856
•       Goulds Park, 11350 SW 216 St., 305-255-2399
•       Hammocks Community Park, 9885 Hammocks Blvd., 305-380-6917
•       Leisure Lake Park, 29305 Illinois Rd., 305-248-1527 *
•       Modello Park, 28450 SW 152 Ave., 305-247-1553
•       Naranja Park, 14150 SW 264 St., 305-258-1945 *
•       Sgt. Joseph Delancy Park, 14450 Boggs Dr., 305-235-4503
•       South Dade Park, 28151 SW 164 Ave., 305-247-9453
•       Southridge Park, 11250 SW 192 St., 786-293-4549
•       West Perrine Park, 17121 SW 104 Ave., 305-235-2053

Specialized Out of School Programs:
Out-of-School Program for Children with Disabilities (ages 6-22)
  Camp Matecumbe
11400 SW 137 Ave., 305-752-4966
•  Coral Estates Park
1405 SW 97 Ave., 305-226-1622
  Goulds Park
11350 SW 216 St., 305-234-1673
•  Greynolds Park
17530 W. Dixie Highway, 305-945-3425
•  Tamiami Park
11201 SW 24 St., 305-222-2128
  Westwind Lakes Park
6805 SW 152 Ave., 305-380-9106
•  Cultural Arts Out-of-School Programs (ages 6-16):
•  African Heritage Cultural Arts Center Auditorium
6161 NW 22 Ave., 305-638-6771
  Raices Cultural Arts Center at Miller Drive Park
5510 SW 94 Ct., 305-271-0812

Deering Estate at Cutler Out-of-School Programs - School Yard Science/Eco Academy:
• Deering Estate at Cutler
16701 SW 72 Ave., 305-235-1668, ext.222

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