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BOKS

Little Candace scored six three-pointers in her basketball game this weekend. Too bad it was on her iPad and not on the court.

Sound familiar to any parents out there? Kids spending an inordinate amount of time in front of electronics instead of getting up and running around on their own two feet?

Well, mom Kathleen Tullie was not a fan of this scenario, so she decided to create a morning fitness program to get kids going before school.


But she had to fight for it, even with a community of parents behind her.

Kathleen Tullie, founder of BOKS. Photo via BOKS.

Tullie was a seasoned businesswoman when a downturn in the market and her cancer diagnosis convinced her to give up her career and become a stay-at-home mom. While reading a book called "Spark" by John Ratey about how regular exercise has the power to improve brain functionality, she was inspired to take a hard look at her kids' school's physical fitness program.

"We have an obesity and mental health crisis — why are we not letting our kids run around before school? I had elementary school kids, and they were only getting PE at school once a week," says Tullie.

She brought the idea of a before-school fitness program run by parents to her kids' school principal.

Kids in BOKS program doing jumping jacks. Photo via Kathleen Tullie.

It seemed like a no-brainer, but even armed with a group of parents committed to hosting the program, the principal gave a resounding "no."

He thought it would be too much trouble.

Naturally, that didn't stop Tullie. She kicked the idea over to the superintendent, who loved it and told her to run with it (pun intended).

She then sent out an email announcing the program to all the parents, and within a week, nearly 100 kids were geared up to go.

Once it was in full swing, she started receiving tons of emails from parents and teachers saying what a profound impact the workout was having on their kids.

They were sleeping better, had better attitudes, and were performing better academically.

Kid running in BOKS program. Photo via BOKS.

Tullie never imagined the interest it would get and decided to form a nonprofit to elevate her mission.

First, she wrote to that author, John Ratey, to tell him of her plans for the nonprofit. He immediately wrote back saying, “I’ll be a director. Let’s start something.”  

Then Tullie went to Reebok to see if they'd be willing to do a T-shirt sponsorship. She ended up speaking to Matt O'Toole, Reebok's CEO, about the program for two hours.

He told her he loved what she was doing and wanted to back them to "help reinvigorate a culture of participants."

Just like that, they were taken under the umbrella of the Reebok Foundation, and the program became known as BOKS.

From there, BOKS spread like wildfire. Seven years later, it's now in 2,500 schools and four different countries.

BOKS kids running a relay race. Photo via Kathleen Tullie.

Tullie, along with her original "Mom Team" Cheri Levitz and Jen Lawrence, could not be more thrilled that BOKS took off. Sure, there were hard times, like the first year and a half when none of them took home a paycheck, but their dedication paid off in a big way.

"I feel like I’ve been given this opportunity where I have to make a difference," says Tullie. "I want to get to the point where every school is active."

Her son and daughter are now 13 and 16, love fitness and play all sorts of sports. She hopes her endeavor has inspired them to go after their dreams with everything they've got.

What fuels Tullie most are the incredible success stories she hears from parents, teachers, and trainers all the time.

A trainer with kids playing BOKS games. Photo via Kathleen Tullie.

One woman in particular who always stands out as truly inspiring to her is Jesse Farren James, a mom from Boston who's been a lead trainer at an inner-city school for three and a half years and has always struggled with her weight.

When it was first suggested she become lead trainer, she wasn't sure she'd be an appropriate role model, but that quickly changed.

"BOKS gave me a chance to show kids that no matter what size and shape you are, if you are a natural born athlete or have a lot to work on, BOKS is fun," writes James in an email. "BOKS reminded me that fat or thin, I am of use. I can make a difference, a big one."

That's why Tullie's goal is for there to be a program like BOKS in every school. If kids see fitness as fun, accessible, and totally inclusive, they might make it part of their routine for the rest of their lives.

Interested in bringing BOKS to your community? Sign up for their training program here.

Find out more about what BOKS is all about here:

Our children are expected to live five fewer years than we will. And it's from something preventable.

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Upworthy on Friday, October 27, 2017
Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

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Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

TikTok about '80s childhood is a total Gen X flashback.

As a Gen X parent, it's weird to try to describe my childhood to my kids. We're the generation that didn't grow up with the internet or cell phones, yet are raising kids who have never known a world without them. That difference alone is enough to make our 1980s childhoods feel like a completely different planet, but there are other differences too that often get overlooked.

How do you explain the transition from the brown and orange aesthetic of the '70s to the dusty rose and forest green carpeting of the '80s if you didn't experience it? When I tell my kids there were smoking sections in restaurants and airplanes and ashtrays everywhere, they look horrified (and rightfully so—what were we thinking?!). The fact that we went places with our friends with no quick way to get ahold of our parents? Unbelievable.

One day I described the process of listening to the radio, waiting for my favorite song to come on so I could record it on my tape recorder, and how mad I would get when the deejay talked through the intro of the song until the lyrics started. My Spotify-spoiled kids didn't even understand half of the words I said.

And '80s hair? With the feathered bangs and the terrible perms and the crunchy hair spray? What, why and how?

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Ginger the dog was stolen from her family back in 2017. Her owner, Barney Lattimore of Janesville, Wisconsin, never gave up the hope that his sweet girl was out there somewhere. Whenever he'd see a dog listed on a rescue website or humane society website that even remotely resembled his Ginger, he would inquire about the dog. Unfortunately, it was never her. You'd think that after a while he would stop, but if he had, he likely wouldn't have gotten the sweetest reunion.

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When a couple has their first child, they start out with the greatest of intentions and expectations. The child will only eat organic food. They will never watch TV or have screen time and will always stay clean.

But soon, reality sets in and if they have more kids, they'll probably be raised with a lot less attention. As a result, first-born kids turn out a bit differently than their younger siblings.

"Rules are a bit more rigid, attention and validation is directed and somewhat excessive," Niro Feliciano, LCSW, a psychotherapist and anxiety specialist, told Parents. "As a result, firstborns tend to be leaders, high achievers, people-pleasing, rule-following and conscientious, several of the qualities that tend to predict success."

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