Maurice Hector just wanted to come out and get some fresh air when the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation held a Falcons Fitness Zone Wednesday at the Positive Place Boys & Girls Club in Gainesville.
But the rising second grader at Centennial Arts Academy was open for the chaos that ensued. Falcons punter Michael Koenen broke up the sultry summer afternoon by turning a water hose on the group of excited elementary age kids.
"It’s just a lot of fun to get out here and play," Hector said.
Koenen was one of 12 Falcons players in attendance to mark the 100th Falcons Fitness Zone. The program started in 2005 as an initiative of the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation and team owner Arthur Blank to help fight childhood obesity and increase physical activity among young people. Other players in attendance were wide receivers Brian Finneran and Roddy White, cornerback Chris Houston, tight end and West Hall High graduate Martrez Milner and quarterback D.J. Shockley.
Kids and players alike got to enjoy the nice weather with play stations set up to make exercise fun, such as water relays, football toss stations and a sack race. Finneran didn’t mind his role as a defender for kids to avoid getting tagged as they raced between cones.
"It’s a lot of fun to see the kids in action and stay involved with staying physically fit," Finneran said. "Nowadays, kids have so many toys and video games and are staying inside all day, and they’re gaining weight as a result. We have (Falcons) players out almost every day trying to get kids to stay active whether it’s shooting hoops, swimming, baseball or anything else."
Shockley rushed over from a nonrelated camp in Alpharetta to join in the Falcons Fitness Zone. The former University of Georgia quarterback said he has as much fun as the kids do at the camps.
"It’s amazing to be involved with these kids," Shockley said. "It’s really fun to be able to interact with the kids and talk with them one-on-one."
Atlanta Falcons communication manager LaRhonda Jackson said the Falcons Fitness Zone
program reaches approximately 6,000 children with its partnerships with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County, YMCA of Metro Atlanta and the YWCA of Metro Atlanta. She added that the organization wants to spread its theme to include physical fitness for the entire family.
"The numbers show that the program has been successful," Jackson said. "The Falcons organization is passionate about physical fitness and increased physical activity for children.
"When the kids see someone in a jersey trying to get the message out, it lends more credibility to what we are trying to do."
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County is on the receiving end of a $1.08 million grant that is spread out over a three-year period, says vice president of development and marketing Joyce Wilson. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County plans to use money for the current fiscal year to complete a new club adjacent to Lyman Hall elementary.
Money that the Hall County Boys & Girls Clubs receives also funds sports programs, improving existing fields and even amenities such as scoreboards.
"It’s been an amazing partnership with the Falcons," Wilson said.