7 American Charities Focused on Getting Children Involved With Sports

With young people becoming increasingly sedentary, childhood obesity is a growing problem in the United States today. Obesity is when a child is well above the healthy weight range for their height and age. The health consequences can be serious — children with obesity are more likely to develop a range of health problems, like high blood pressure, breathing problems, and even diabetes.

Over the past 40 years, the rate of childhood obesity has more than tripled, from 5 percent in the late 1970s to 18.5 percent in 2016. There are a host of potential causes for this alarming increase, like the increased availability of processed foods. Ensuring children get enough physical activity is also critical in staving off childhood obesity.

In this article, we look at six US organizations that encourage and empower children and youth to become more physically active.

1. Kids Fit Foundation

This nonprofit organization was created to provide fitness programs for at-risk youth. Kids Fit Foundation helps children to reach their fitness goals and encourages them to celebrate their healthy lifestyle achievements with friends and family.

Physical activity has been shown to promote heightened confidence and wellbeing in children. According to one study of 9 to 10-year-olds, those who participated in sports demonstrated improved physical competence and higher self-worth compared with their less-active peers.

Kids Fit Foundation is dedicated to raising both awareness and funds for quality youth programs incorporating fitness, health, and wellness. The organization achieves this by offering summer camps, physical fitness activities, afterschool programing, and exercise and nutrition education to get children off to the very best start in life.

2. DREAM

In addition to public charter schools, DREAM provides free, nationally recognized summer and afterschool sports-based programs. The organization encourages kids to become caring, competent, and confident community members who recognize the importance of working as a team to overcome challenges.

Established in 1991 in East Harlem, DREAM was originally known as Harlem RBI. The organization was created when a group of volunteers transformed an abandoned parking lot into two baseball diamonds, providing the youth of East Harlem with a safe place to play on what had been “the worst block in NYC,” according to the New York Times.

As the organization grew, it began to address the wider needs of the community it served, including low literacy and graduation rates, through a variety of afterschool and summer enrichment programming. Today, DREAM operates charter schools in New York, as well as a 160,000-square-foot mixed use center that includes 89 affordable housing units as well as a rehabilitated park space.

3. Girls On The Run

Ongoing social challenges and age-old gender stereotypes combined with covid-19-related trauma and stressors mean that, now more than ever, girls need support and guidance to grow into confident, resilient young women.

Evidence shows that Girls On The Run programming unlocks the power and potential of participants, helping them to lead happier, healthier lives. This afterschool program inspires girls of all abilities to recognize their inner strength by providing lessons that emphasize the connection between physical and emotional health. At the conclusion of the program, students complete a 5K, which allows them to feel a sense of accomplishment and pride and understand the benefits of a goal-oriented mindset.

4. Good Sports

Sometimes, kids don’t need to be encouraged to participate in sports — they’re all too eager to play, but they simply don’t have the right gear. Good Sports’ mission is to help all children acquire the lifelong benefits connected with physical activity and sports by providing equipment, footwear, and clothing to those most in need.

Good Sports creates opportunities for children to enjoy sports through donations of brand-new gear. Under its Equip-A-Kid program, the organization enables donors to handpick their favorite pieces of sports equipment to give to a child in need, with the donor’s funds going directly to the purchase of the equipment.

5. YMCA

The YMCA is a fixture in thousands of communities across the country. Its popular sports programs help children stay active, make friends, learn about sportsmanship, gain new skills, and reach their potential. Sports and recreation programs at “the Y” also provide children with positive role models and teach them to appreciate diversity.

In 2020, more than 553,000 children and teens participated in YMCA youth sports programs in the U.S., with the organization teaching over 412,000 children to swim in that year alone. In addition to team sports of all types, the YMCA also offers youth classes in competitive gymnastics, dance, martial arts, and a variety of other activities.

6. Kaboom

Kaboom unites communities with the objective of creating spaces for their children to learn and play. These play spaces can provide a sense of pride and belonging for the entire community, and they also help level an unequal playing field: children in low-income communities and communities of color often lack safe, well-equipped places to play.

Furthermore, when children suffer a crisis or disaster, losing their routine, home, or loved ones, play is critical to helping them heal. Kaboom works with communities, foundations, and corporations, helping them to create and rebuild safe places for children to play in the wake of crises and disasters.

Since its foundation 25 years ago, the organization has engaged over 1.5 million community members to build or improve over 17,000 play spaces that are used by more than 11.5 million children.

Douglas Healy is a Springfield, Missouri-based attorney with nearly 20 years of legal experience.