(April 27, 2016) United Way of Southwest Virginia, in partnership with the Smyth County Healthy Communities Action Team (HCAT) and Smyth County Public Schools, has received a two-year, $58,815 childhood obesity prevention grant from the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth (VFHY). These funds will launch Physical Fitness for a Lifetime: Teach it! Learn it! Live it!, an outdoor learning initiative to promote physical activity and outdoor recreation. “United Way of Southwest Virginia is extremely honored and excited to once again partner with the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth and the Smyth County Healthy Communities Action Team in implementing this gracious grant,” said Smyth County HCAT Manager, George Owens. “We truly believe that executing the initiatives outlined in this grant will be transformative in achieving the principle goal of reducing or eliminating childhood obesity through physical activities.”

United Way of Southwest Virginia, along with the Smyth County HCAT and Smyth County Public Schools, held a press conference to announce details about the grant on April 27 at 1:00PM at Chilhowie Elementary School, 130 E. Lee Hwy. Those in attendance at the press conference included: Delegate Israel O’Quinn; Superintendent of Smyth County Public Schools Dr. Mike Robinson; VFHY Regional Grants Administrator, Jenny Martin; and CEO of United Way of Southwest Virginia, Travis Staton.

Physical education teachers in Smyth County will develop new curriculum for students including fishing, biking, swimming, disc golf and golf. These are “activities for a lifetime” that children can enjoy in our region’s many outdoor recreation areas. “Smyth County Schools is honored to partner with the United Way and the Healthy Community Action Team to implement this grant in our school division,” said Dr. Mike Robinson, “I firmly believe that the improvements we make in our elementary HPE curriculum will benefit our students for the rest of their lives.”

The grant will run from July 1, 2016 to through June 30, 2018 and is part of VFHY’s Healthy Community Action Team (HCAT) childhood obesity prevention program, which supports the formation of community coalitions. These coalitions form to prevent and reduce childhood obesity in Virginia by improving access to healthy foods and increasing opportunities for physical activity. VFHY’s HCAT coalitions use strategies approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the national Institute of Medicine (IOM).

This grant award follows the previously awarded VFHY grant Walking and Playing Through the Ages which included the construction of a Born Learning Trail designed for children up to age 5. Also included was the town’s new playground which was constructed in part with a $15,000 grant from Washington D.C. based nonprofit, KaBOOM!, which helps build community playgrounds nationwide. The Walking and Playing Through the Ages grant also helped support kiosks and infrastructure around trail access and the playground.

The Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth funds 20 HCAT coalitions statewide, including the Smyth County HCAT group. These HCAT coalitions serve as coordinators and conveners for local activities, working locally to implement policy, environment and systems changes across a wide range of initiatives. These include creating shared-use agreements for improved access to areas for physical activity, increasing access to farmers’ markets for low- income participants, working with local schools to enhance school wellness policies, creating environmental changes to promote healthy foods and supporting and promoting breastfeeding.

Members of the Smyth County HCAT include:

  • Mountain CAP
  • Mount Rogers Planning District
  • Museum of the Middle Appalachians
  • Smart Beginnings Virginia Highlands
  • Smyth County Public Schools
  • Town of Saltville
  • United Way of Southwest Virginia