Fifteen years ago, a small nonprofit started a free physical activity challenge to help Alaska children get moving. The hope was to support children to be physically active every day. This would help them grow up healthy and prevent childhood obesity, a serious problem in our state.
Healthy Futures — a small program with a big goal — has been supporting active children all across Alaska ever since. During the first Healthy Futures Challenge in 2003, just 30 of Alaska’s 400 elementary schools participated. The Healthy Futures program was founded by the late Bonny Sosa Young and her husband Sam Young, parents who were concerned about childhood obesity in Alaska.
Since 2003, more partners started to work with Healthy Futures to support physical activity. Providence Health & Services Alaska is a longtime partner. The United Way of Anchorage supports the program, as does the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, ConocoPhillips, the Alaska Kidney Foundation and others. The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, Obesity Prevention and Control Program and its Play Every Day campaign became a partner for the 2012 Spring Challenge, and that partnership continues today. Now, Healthy Futures is run through another organization called the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame.
Participation took off as more organizations started working with Healthy Futures to promote the same goal of active Alaska kids. Look at how the program has grown:
- First Challenge during the 2003-2004 school year: 30 schools, 2,300 participating children
- Spring 2012 Challenge: 110 schools, almost 7,000 participating children
- Fall 2017 Challenge: 165 schools, more than 14,000 participating children
- Spring 2018 Challenge: About 175 schools signed up for the Challenge that runs February through April, 2018
“It's nice to see the growth of the Healthy Futures program over the years, but it's especially gratifying to know that the essence of Healthy Futures has never really wavered during that time,” said Harlow Robinson, executive director of Healthy Futures and the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. “The mission and the core programs have always been fundamentally sound and that is a testament to Bonny Sosa's vision.”
It’s not too late for schools to sign up for the Spring Challenge online. The Spring Challenge runs in February, March and April. Students keep a log of their daily physical activity with the goal of being active at least 60 minutes a day for 15 days each month. This helps Alaska children get closer to the national recommendation of 60 minutes of physical activity every day for the best health. The challenge is free to schools and students. Students who successfully log their physical activity each month of the challenge win a prize from Healthy Futures.
Staff at interested schools can contact firstname.lastname@example.org to learn about signing up for this and future physical activity challenges. Parents can ask their children if their elementary schools are participating in the challenge (almost half of them are), and can help support their kids to complete the physical activity goals each month.
The map of schools participating in the Spring Healthy Futures Challenge was created in mid February, 2018.