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News has been the same for a while and it is not changing any time soon. Schools are running out of funds all over the country and we all know what will be cut first each time — Physical Education. We might not like this, but it is understandable, being that education is their core product, not fitness. We all know the success in education when partnered with activity, but budget cuts create needs for fixes now, not later. It is similar to when we have to tighten our belts and cut some of our smaller classes, programs, etc. These classes and programs are good for our members and that class/classes means a lot to someone, but numbers are numbers. Something has to give.
Locally this is going on, so it was time for us to get more involved. Just like all of you, our club donates to many of the schools in our area in many different ways, but now more is definitely needed. As we all know, healthy habits started at a young age will be longer lasting and more successful than if started later, so why don’t we invest some dollars in our future members, while also doing a great thing for the community? They need us and this is what we do.
In our area, we had too many schools for us to adopt so quickly, so we decided to reach out to the other IHRSA clubs in our area to see if we could all do this together. We are friendly competitors, all operating within a few miles of each other, but if we could put that aside and join together to do something for the kids, we could achieve a lot more than any of us could do alone.
So I contacted Franco’s Health Club and Spa and Pelican Athletic Club and both of them were excited to do this. No hesitation, just let’s meet and figure it out. We joined together and after a few meetings we partnered with Power Systems and were able to donate $10,000 worth of PE equipment to all 26 public and private elementary schools in our parish.
In order to make this work, we had to put competition aside and our need to always put our name out there and market. Any push we would do to directly market our names would draw hesitation and delays from the schools.
All 26 schools received jump ropes, agility rings, an agility ladder, power bands, cones, hula hoops, a power chute, and bean bags for use in an active Tic Tac Toe game. It was special to see the children enjoying their new PE equipment, and it was also special to get the sincere thanks we received from many parents, the schools and the teachers. It took months to get this going, but what we have started to make a big difference and it will last for years. We will be back next year, but this time the community will help us make this even bigger and the schools will be even more involved on what items they need and want.
Think about the long-term effects of a community effort like this. A little costly up front, but what will this possibly do for everyone? Since I have been in this industry, our membership numbers have gone from 12 percent of the population to 18 percent of the population. Over those 26 years, our industry’s penetration has gone up six points. No one is happy with this growth.
With the growing obesity and inactivity epidemic in our country, health clubs need to join together to lead in this fight. We need to get more of the population into our health clubs. Let’s start with the schools where it is needed and work our way up. If we get the kids to enjoy exercising, maybe they can help us to get their parents moving also? Kids and parents can now do the same workouts with very little equipment needed to get started. Not all of us have health clubs where we can do activities with children and adults inside the clubs, so let’s take it outside our walls. That way even adult-focused clubs can be involved in helping the kids and our communities, while also helping all of our clubs in the present and in the future.
The population is not coming to us like we would like to see, so let’s go out to the population and get them.
Larry Conner is the President/GM of Stone Creek Club & Spa. For more information he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.