November 16, 2011
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Thanks to a generous $150,000 grant from the WellPoint Foundation to the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA), 18 partnering agencies from across the United States are providing more than 700 blind and visually impaired teenagers with an opportunity to increase their physical fitness levels and begin living a healthy and active lifestyle. The USABA-WellPoint Foundation National Fitness Challenge program is a year-long program that began this summer.
"Our goal is to help each participating teen become more fit and lose weight by using fun and challenging physical activities", said Mark Lucas, executive director of the United States Association of Blind Athletes. "Each participating agency submits baseline data and monthly updates that are used to create and modify achievable fitness and weight loss goals for the teens to help them decrease their Body Mass Index."
Research has consistently shown that individuals who participate in regular physical activity to improve their health have higher energy levels, a lower risk of health-related diseases, improved psychological health, and lower rates of depression and anxiety. Unfortunately, because of the many barriers and misconceptions about their abilities, approximately 70 percent of the nearly 56,000 blind and visually impaired children and youth in the United States do not participate in even a limited physical education curriculum.
"The WellPoint Foundation is committed to helping children and adults live active lives and avoid the health risks associated with sedentary lifestyles and obesity",said Mike Walsh, president and general manager of WellPoint's Specialty Products, which includes dental, vision, workers' compensation, voluntary, life and disability benefits. "We believe no one should ever be denied the right to enjoy the physical and emotional benefits of exercise, and we are proud to partner with the USABA to ensure that vision impairments do not limit the recreational opportunities afforded to teenagers across the country."
The 18 agencies participating in the USABA-WellPoint Foundation National Fitness Challenge program include:
- The Braille Institute of Orange County - California
- The Braille Institute of Los Angeles - California
- LightHouse for the Blind of San Francisco - California
- Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind - Colorado
- Colorado Center for the Blind - Colorado
- State of Connecticut: Board of Education & Services for the Blind - Connecticut
- Center for the Visually Imapired - Georgia
- Indiana School for the Blind - Indiana
- Kentucky Association of Blind Athletes - Kentucky
- Delta Gamma Center for the Visually Impaired - Missouri
- Missouri School for the Blind - Missouri
- Inter-Actions in New Hampshire - New Hampshire
- New York Institute for Special Education - New York
- Association for Vision Rehabilitation and Employment - New York
- Lighthouse International - New York
- Cleveland Society for the Blind - Ohio
- Ohio School f/t Blind and Columbus Parks Recreation - Ohio
- Wisconsin School for the Visually Handicapped - Wisconsin
The funds from the WellPoint Foundation grant are used to provide talking pedometers, t-shirts, prizes, fitness and nutrition coaches for teens participating in the program.
Since its founding in 1976, USABA, a community-based organization of the United States Olympic Committee, has reached more than 100,000 blind individuals. The organization has emerged as more than just a world-class trainer of blind athletes, it has become a champion of the abilities of Americans who are legally blind. USABA's mission: to enhance the lives of blind and visually impaired people by providing the opportunity for participation in sports and physical activity. For more information go to http://usaba.org/.
About WellPoint Foundation
The WellPoint Foundation is the philanthropic arm of WellPoint, Inc. and through charitable contributions and programs, the Foundation promotes the inherent commitment of WellPoint, Inc. to enhance the health and well-being of individuals and families in communities that WellPoint, Inc. and its affiliated health plans serve. The Foundation focuses it’s funding on strategic initiatives that address and provide innovative solutions to health care challenges, as well as promoting the Healthy Generations Program, a multi-generational initiative that targets specific disease states and medical conditions. These disease states and medical conditions include: prenatal care in the first trimester, low birth weight babies, cardiac morbidity rates, long term activities that decrease obesity and increase physical activity, diabetes prevalence in adult populations, adult pneumococcal and influenza vaccinations and smoking cessation. The Foundation also coordinates the company's annual associate giving campaign and provides a 50 percent match of associates' campaign pledges. To learn more about the WellPoint Foundation, please visit http://www.wellpointfoundation.org/.