National City’s childhood obesity rate is the worst in San Diego County, according to a UCLA Center for Health Policy and Research and the California Center for Publc Health Advocacy 2012 study.
That fact concerned Maribel Gavin, president of the nonprofit Kiwanis Club of Sweetwater, and principal of Sweetwater High School in National City.
Wanting to help combat obesity in National City, Gavin, along with her husband Andrew Gavin, also a Kiwanis member and an avid cyclist, created a program through the Kiwanis Club called Bikes 4 Kids. The program distributes two bicycles to two students at each grade level in the 13 public schools in National City.
Gavin said the bikes serve as a resource to help reduce the high obesity rate in the county’s second oldest city.
“We know there are a lot of other attributes toward child obesity like nutrition, but what can we do to give them a tool where they want to go outside and do something active as opposed to sitting inside the house watching TV, playing video games, basically just being sedentary?” Gavin said. “So we thought of this project.”
Now in its third year, Bikes 4 Kids has awarded 202 bikes and raised more than $18,000 to date.
The program is in its fundraising stage for this year’s event, including setting up a GoFundMe page: https://www.gofundme.com/Bikes4KidsProject seeking donations.
This year’s goal is to raise $20,000 to buy 200 bikes, helmets and locks for Standout Hardworking kids in National City. Bikes get distributed in December during the holiday season.
Principals and teachers at each school select two students – a boy and a girl — who displayed good academic grades throughout the year or who have turned their grades around and have near perfect attendance. Students also have to be good citizens at school.
Andrew Gavin said awarding one boy and one girl a bike at each grade level is strategic instead of simply donating a bunch of bikes to kids.
“We call out a single kid in a grade. One boy, one girl and we award this bike to them in front of their peers so it’s a lot bigger deal for the recipient as well as 30 kids that went ‘Wow, how do I get (a bike) next year? What do I have to do?” Andrew Gavin said.
“We’ve seen the impact of singling out that kid in front of their peers.”
Andrew Gavin said right now it is difficult to measure if the bikes do help curb the obesity rate in National City. He said the impact would most likely be seen in the long term, maybe four to five years later.