These moms are conquering a huge obstacle: helping kids see that exercise is fun.
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BOKS

When the moms at Roosevelt K-8 School got together to start a fitness program for their kids, one mom was not feeling enthusiastic.

“When I was in school it was, ‘How many pullups can you do?’” Jesse Farren-James says. “Well, I could do zero, and it was horrible.”

Having struggled with her weight on and off throughout life, Farren-James felt like the last person who should be helping lead an exercise program.


But one problem at her sons' school left her feeling like she had no choice but to do something.

Farren-James and her family dog, Arrow. All photos via Jesse Farren-James, used with permission.

“Our school doesn’t offer gym until fifth grade,” she says. “So there are some kids who can’t do any sports and really get virtually no physical activity.”

With school days getting longer and daylight getting shorter, Farren-James’ two sons, Patrick and Sean, were getting fewer and fewer opportunities to get active outside of school.

Other kids, whose families had fewer resources, were treading dangerously close to being totally sedentary.

Jesse with husband Kevin and sons, Sean and Patrick.

Despite her hesitation, Farren-James agreed to come on as a parent volunteer when the rest of the moms decided to launch BOKS at the school.

To Farren-James’ relief, BOKS was not the kind of fitness program that she remembered from her own school days.

The program, which stands for Building Our Kids’ Success, is a 45-minute before-school fitness routine.

It follows a robust, evidence-based and scaleable curriculum established by the BOKS organization that consists of some free play, a warmup, a running-related activity, a “skill of the week” (like pushups or situps), a fun end-of-class game, and a cool-down that includes some discussion about nutrition.

And, as Farren-James soon found out, the program places a much higher value on simply getting active and having fun than it does on counting jumping jacks or perfecting a child’s pushup.

“This is not competition. It’s doing our personal best, learning new skills, trying our hardest,” she says. “It’s working on the holistic aspect of bettering ourselves.”

Plus, the kids are having fun.

The impact the program has had on the kids is astounding says Farren-James.

When it comes to the kids, the program encourages more focus on fun and activity than on measuring repetitions or speed. But since the school's program is sponsored, trainers do take metrics, and participants' overall fitness levels have improved markedly.

"From the beginning to the end, the difference is huge," Farren-James says. "The data shows it: Kids get faster. Kids get stronger. Kids have more endurance."

Teachers, too, have noticed a huge improvement in another area: the students' behavior and focus on days they come from BOKS.

“The kids come into class and they’re just chill," Farren-James says. "They’re in a different space. They’ve gotten their energy out.”

But most importantly, at least to Farren-James, is the life skills that kids learn through participating in BOKS.

The kids become more physically fit, but parents and teachers also see huge improvements in their social skills after some time at BOKS.

"It's incredible — it's a morning class three times a week that gives you almost every skill that you would need in life," says Farren-James. "Work together. Be active. Treat each other with respect."

The kids get to practice leading, following, sharing, and challenging themselves in more ways than just the physical.

In the end, kids walk away from BOKS healthier — in body and in spirit.

Unlike a sports team or a graded gym class, BOKS doesn't assign any particular merit to being able to run faster or play harder. It's all about establishing a healthy relationship with your body — no matter what state that body is in.

Photo via BOKS.

What the kids learn about exercise is something that Farren-James learned through BOKS too.

"It doesn’t have to be tedious and miserable and embarrassing and uncomfortable," she says. "It can just be fun."

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

Ready for the weekend? Of course, you are. Here's our weekly dose of good vibes to help you shed the stresses of the workweek and put yourself in a great frame of mind.

These 10 stories made us happy this week because they feature amazing creativity, generosity, and one super-cute fish.

1. Diver befriends a fish with the cutest smile

Hawaiian underwater photographer Yuki Nakano befriended a friendly porcupine fish and now they hang out regularly.

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