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UHealth Joins with Miami-Dade Parks to Launch Fit to Play Summer Health and Fitness Program

6/16/2008

In loud voices that reverberated through the sports facility at Gwen Cherry Park, about 300 eager children started their summer camp season by singing praises to the University of Miami. The chorus came at the prompting of Miami-Dade Commissioner Dorrin Rolle, who urged the children to give thanks to the University of Miami Health System (UHealth) for partnering with the Miami-Dade Parks and Recreation Department to provide them with a summer health and fitness program.

Commissioner Rolle was joined at the event by UM President Donna E. Shalala, Miller School Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., county parks and recreation director Jack Kardys and several other government officials, and special guest Darrin Smith, the former UM Hurricane and two-time Super Bowl champion, for the morning pep rally and official launch of the program known as Fit to Play.

When Dean Goldschmidt took to the stage, he told the group he has three sons – including a five-year-old who thinks he is Superman. Laughter turned to amazement when Goldschmidt said he also has a second family of 800 children. He explained: “These 800 children are the Miller School of Medicine medical students that will be checking you out to make sure you’re fit and healthy all summer.”

“This summer will not be the last time you will see us,” Goldschmidt added. “We’re so proud to be supporting you and we will be here for you.”

Through the Fit to Play partnership, third-year medical students on their primary care clerkship will go to several different parks over the summer and staff stations designed to teach the kids about prevention and healthy behaviors. Each camper will have a health passport that will be stamped at each of the stations, with such topics as fitness, sun protection, tobacco prevention, nutrition, and stress reduction.  The program was put together by medical education, the Medical Wellness Center and the Mitchell Wolfson, Sr., Department of Community Service (DOCS) Program.

President Shalala, long lauded as a national health policy expert, told the youths that becoming a successful adult requires embracing health and fitness, and a solid education.

“You need a strong mind. You need a strong body. We’re going to help you do it,” Shalala said. “UM has made a commitment to this program because we care about you and want you to fulfill your dreams. We want you to be as healthy as the finest football player we put on the field.”

The young summer campers met one of the finest football players when Smith, who helped the Hurricanes take home a national championship and the Dallas Cowboys win two Super Bowls, stood up to address them. They listened intently to his stories of committing himself to become a great football player from the time he was seven years old and playing at Gwen Cherry Park. To be one of the best, he stressed, meant he also had to stay away from drugs and alcohol and focus on education, and fitness that included playing outside.

 “I’m successful not because of the things I did when I was older, but because of the things I did when I was seven years old,” Smith said as the children gave him their full attention. “Whatever you want to do in life you’ve got to be in shape to do it. To fulfill your dreams, your destiny … it actually starts right now.”

While Smith signed his name on dozens of the UM bags given to the students at the end of the program, Dean Goldschmidt mingled with the children and spoke to some of them one-on-one, including Edner Derival, 10, and James Leon, 9, who wants to be both a football player and a lawyer.

“It was spectacular,” James declared in his summation of the Fit to Play launch. “We are learning to be healthy and to go to college.”