-- The Aetna Foundation Presents Grant to Junior Blind’s After School Enrichment Program during Parents’ Night Event, Featuring Special Remarks by Olympic Gold Medalist Rafer Johnson --
LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Junior Blind of America, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping children and adults who are blind, visually impaired or multi-disabled achieve independence, today announced the strengthening of its fight against childhood obesity among visually impaired and low-income children. Many of the children the organization serves live in South Los Angeles, where 28.9 percent of all school-age children are obese--the highest childhood obesity rate in Los Angeles County.
The Aetna Foundation will present Junior Blind with a $25,000 grant in support of its innovative After School Enrichment Program on Thursday, February 23, 2012, during a Parents’ Night event at Junior Blind’s South Los Angeles campus featuring guest speaker, Olympic Gold Medalist Rafer Johnson.
Now in its fifth year, Junior Blind’s After School Enrichment Program serves 75 visually impaired and sighted children, ages 8 to 13, each year. More than 90 percent are from low-income families and from minority backgrounds.
“With the Aetna Foundation’s generous support, we are able to provide our after-school healthy living program at no charge to children who are at high risk of obesity,” says Miki Jordan, president, Junior Blind of America. “Most blind and visually impaired children have limited opportunities to participate in sports and other physical activities and often trail their sighted peers in fitness levels. When children are also from low-income families, like the ones we serve, they face an even greater risk of obesity and its related diseases. Investing in the health of our community’s children will greatly improve their lives.”
The only program of its kind in Los Angeles, Junior Blind’s After School Enrichment Program brings together blind or visually impaired children and their sighted peers for a wide range of healthy living activities at its campus on Angeles Vista Boulevard. There, for at least an hour each day, the students take part in sports and other physical activities at the organization’s multi-sensory playground, specially adapted aquatics center, weight room, bowling alley, rooftop track and football-size playing field. The program also offers cooking classes, using adaptive cookware as necessary, nutrition education and academic enrichment. The program runs from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. each school day and all day during the summer.
To engage the children’s entire family with the healthy living lessons, the program also hosts a Parents’ Night twice a year to educate parents on ways they can help their families lead healthier lives.
Sharon Dalton, the Aetna Foundation’s vice president and director of regional grant making, says that Junior Blind’s comprehensive approach can have a lasting impact on the children in its program.
“We know that daily physical activity and a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help young people maintain a healthy weight and reduce their risk of diabetes and other obesity-related diseases,” she said. “By combining fun lessons about healthful eating and a wide range of physical activities and sports, Junior Blind is helping kids, especially those with few opportunities to exercise, adopt habits that can lead to a lifetime of good health.”
Additionally, employees at Aetna, the parent company of the Aetna Foundation, often volunteer at the organization’s Junior Blind Olympics, Camp Bloomfield and annual Halloween Carnival. In 2011, Aetna was a lead sponsor of the Junior Blind Olympics.
At the February 23 Parents’ Night, guest speaker Olympic Gold Medalist Rafer Johnson is expected to springboard off his message of health and fitness to challenge children and parents alike to stay active by finding physical activities that they enjoy doing together. The event will also feature guest speaker Rafael Garcia from Providence Little Company of Mary.
About Junior Blind of America
Founded in 1953 as the Foundation for the Junior Blind, Junior Blind of America remains an innovative leader in helping people of all ages who are blind, visually impaired or multi-disabled achieve independence. Each year, Junior Blind of America provides services to thousands of individuals and their families through programs that offer individualized methods of early-intervention therapy, education, rehabilitation and recreation. These life-changing programs are designed to empower infants, children, teens and adults to reach their highest level of independence and self-esteem. To learn more, please visit www.juniorblind.org.
About Aetna Foundation
The Aetna Foundation, Inc. is the independent charitable and philanthropic arm of Aetna Inc. Since 1980, Aetna and the Aetna Foundation have contributed $394 million in grants and sponsorships, including $15.6 million in 2010. As a national health foundation, we promote wellness, health, and access to high-quality health care for everyone. This work is enhanced by the time and commitment of Aetna employees, who have volunteered more than 2.3 million hours since 2003. Our current giving is focused on addressing the rising rate of adult and childhood obesity in the U.S.; promoting racial and ethnic equity in health and health care; and advancing integrated health care. For more information, visit www.AetnaFoundation.org.
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