NEWS | Feb. 16, 2011

Run Buddies needs volunteers

By Eric Sesit, Joint Base Charleston public affairs

When First Lady Michelle Obama took up the cause of childhood obesity last year, it resulted in President Barrack Obama signing the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act into law Dec. 13, 2010. According to a White House Task Force, one of the goals of the act is reducing childhood obesity from 20 percent to 5 percent during the next 20 years.

In accordance with this act, Ashley Destefano, program manager at the Joint Base Charleston Health and Wellness Center, has discovered a relatively new program in the Charleston area that will enable Joint Base Charleston Sailors and Airmen to help reduce childhood obesity, while also improving their own health and fitness.

"The program is called Run Buddies and it allows JB CHS Airmen and Sailors the opportunity to improve their own fitness while giving back to the community. It's a perfect fit," said Ms. Destefano.

The Run Buddies program matches volunteers with children who need an adult to help guide them to a healthy lifestyle. Adult volunteers sign up to work with a child of the same sex and set the schedule for the duo to run, walk or engage in some form of exercise on a regular basis. The Run Buddy adult mentor, along with parents, provides a young person with athletic support, counsel, friendship and reinforcement.

"Fighting childhood obesity is a major concern for today's military," Ms. Destefano said. "Overweight and obese children often grow into overweight and obese adults who are unable to meet the requirements for military service. This program is a way we can bridge the gap between reducing childhood obesity and the military community.

"Airmen or Sailors on JB CHS looking for a worthy cause to volunteer their time should seriously take a look at the Run Buddies program. What better gift to give a child than the gift of a lifetime of health," Ms. Destafano said.

Volunteers looking to devote time to help a child get started on his or her fitness goal can go to the Run Buddies website at www.runbuddies.org to sign up. A criminal background check is conducted on all adult applicants for the safety of the children and costs $30.25 to the individual. Once all the enrollment criteria are met, a volunteer is matched with a child that is looking to begin the long road to health and fitness. The Run Buddies website provides volunteers with all the resources and training tips they need to become a successful mentor.

"It's important to reverse the trend of childhood obesity," Ms. Destefano said. "The Run Buddies program is a perfect way for our Sailors and Airmen to improve their fitness while doing some very worthwhile volunteer work in our community."

If you are interested in becoming a Run Buddy, contact Ms. Destefano at the HAWC at 963-4007 or go to the Run Buddies website.