After a long career in sports – coaching, running fitness programs for two schools in the suburbs and teaming up with others to run a large basketball clinic in South Philadelphia – Beth Devine realized that it wasn’t the suburbs that were in need of fitness programs for young girls, but the city of Philadelphia.
“I wanted to get back to working with kids and some of the things I saw – the incidents of childhood obesity, the lack of programming in schools, schools getting rid of gym class – I just felt that there was a need to fulfill in that area,” Devine said.
Philly Girls in Motion is a nonprofit organization in partnership with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia which focuses on helping girls in Philadelphia to become more active and physically fit.
Devine sought the knowledge and guidance from nutritionists, personal trainers and fitness professionals to help birth Philly Girls in Motion and provide young girls with community-based programs. The organization runs throughout the school year and offers fitness programs at three rec centers.
“I got together with a bunch of people and discussed the idea with the Parks and Recreation Department, we got the ball rolling and incorporated as a nonprofit and started moving forward with our programming,” Devine said.
Devine has worked for more than 10 years running children’s programs such as directing Future Stars Basketball, field hockey, day camps, Catholic Youth Organization basketball and coaching softball. Devine has also been a sports clinician and instructor for nearly 15 years.
“We started very small at two locations with a pilot program because I really wanted to learn what did and didn’t work,” Devine said. “We added locations, we tried a couple of schools and we’ve grown tremendously in the number of participants.”
Since Philly Girls in Motion started, the organization has teamed up with CHOP to create an educational program to help girls learn healthy habits.
Rachel DeHaven, physical activity specialist at the Healthy Weight Program at CHOP, worked with one of the dietitians, Rebecca Rogers, to put together the educational material for the program.
“We created an educational game and handout that the kids can take home,” DeHaven said. “I go to each site every semester and teach a ‘boot camp’ class along with a short lesson on a healthy habit such as screen time, talking about why limiting screen time on the TV, computer or iPad is important, and that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours of screen time per day.”
DeHaven aligns CHOP’s view of a healthy Philadelphia with the mission of Philly Girls in Motion for a perfect match in executing the goal of the organization.
“We started working with Beth almost three years ago. We are honored to be a partner with this nonprofit and their mission aligns perfectly with the outreach mission at CHOP,” DeHaven said. “We believe that health and fitness should be fun and available to everyone and we refer many of our patients to their program because it is affordable, fun and local.”
“We have found in our line of work, the earlier you can instill healthy principles and a balanced lifestyle, the more likely that child is to maintain that throughout their adult hood,” DeHaven said.
The future of Philly Girls in Motion looks positive with Devine hoping to extend programs into the summer for a full year of activities. In conjunction with having programs throughout the summer, Devine hopes to also bring out more participants.
“Our goal is to get more girls involved,” Devine said.
– Text, images and video by Kelsey Kondraski and Shayna Kleinberg