Fit Kids now impacts youth in Minnesota’s Twin Cities area via a new partnership with Perspectives, a non-profit that addresses the community’s issues around homelessness, racial disparity, poverty, trauma, mental and chemical health issues, and nutrition. Established in 1976, the organization’s work becomes even more holistic in its service to homeless women and children by introducing Fit Kids’ fitness component.
The partnership stems from Fit Kids Founder Ashley Hunter’s drive to impact her hometown and fortuitous connection with restaurateurs Lori and David Fhima, who also support Perspectives.
“We were so excited about Fit Kids because in our 43 years, we’ve never actually had a fitness program to run along with our nutrition program,” said Lisa Walker, Perspectives’ Vice President of Development and Communications. “When Ashley called with Fit Kids, it was a dream come true. Lori and David Fhima are more than just partners, they’re family members, and we’ve looked at so many fitness curricula over the years and there was never a fit.
“Nobody really got what we do. They just thought, ‘Oh, give the kids a dodgeball and let them play.’ But everything we do is trauma-informed. You can’t just give a dodgeball, without a good curriculum behind it, to a kid who’s witnessed a parent be shot and killed.”
Fit Kids is providing equipment, curriculum, and program support services to the 70 children that Perspectives can serve at one time, based on the housing capacity the organization can offer, Walker said. “Our head of children’s programming, when she was talking with Ashley, said we would not be able to pay for a program so big and expansive, that we’ve been dreaming about this and ‘You’re probably going to tell me it costs a billion dollars.’ When she found out Fit Kids was giving us this, she almost fell out of her chair.”
Perspectives plans to start running the program in January, as the holiday season is generally a time of increased crisis and emergency mental health situations for the people the organization serves. “We plan to incorporate Fit Kids into the children’s school day, every day,” Walker said. “We’ve been attacking physical health issues as much as possible from the food side, because all of our families come from food instability, and now we get to add movement on top of that!”
Even the informal introduction of Fit Kids already is making a difference at Perspectives.
“With the cold weather, we are not able to go outside, so playing one of the activities that the curriculum lays out for us is a perfect way to spend that time,” said Aurie Dyer, a teacher in Perspectives’ Kids Connection program.
“The younger students LOVED playing with the equipment and they truly did not want to stop! I think it is going to help a few of them be extra ready for rest time so that is a nice side effect as well. This equipment is going to be a huge hit with our kids and will help take our program to the next level. We cannot thank Fit Kids enough for this incredible partnership!”
Of course, Ashley Hunter also shares great excitement. “It means a lot to me personally to establish Fit Kids in the Twin Cities. Throughout our 10 years of growth, primarily in California, as a Minnesota native, I’ve always wanted Fit Kids to reach the point where we could attract high-impact partners in my home state. Perspectives already does such great work with people who really need it, and everyone at Fit Kids looks forward to seeing how we can contribute.”