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World Health Day: Soccer for the Community offered both benefits. The health fair and soccer bonanza at the City of Huntington Park earlier this month provided over 500 Adidas soccer balls—World Cup replicas—donated by the LAFC Foundation with the help of Adidas and healthcare information, products and services that may change lives. The event drew an estimated 2,500 people from a community that ranks among the poorest in the Los Angeles area and suffers from high rates of obesity and other chronic disease associated with poverty. It was part of a weeklong initiative by health and medical programs at USC and UCLA to promote healthier living.

Earlier this year, LAFC and USC’s Institute of Global Health agreed to team up on projects combating obesity and other health problems in Mexico and Ethiopia. The groups have also been interested in Huntington Park, an East Los Angeles community where two in five children are obese. LAFC uses soccer to draw families to important healthcare, social and educational programming. It is unique among sports-based, non-profit organizations because it builds fields and other facilities that serve as community centers.

The health fair provided families with nutritious food, including Subway sandwiches, salad, carrots, fresh fruit, healthy kettle corn and Clif Bars. Special thanks to West Central Produce, Clif Bars and Rock-N-Roll Gourmet for donating their products. There was plenty of entertainment throughout the day, as people swayed to the sounds of merengue/salsa bands and Joe Munoz, former American Idol finalist and Huntington Park resident.

But soccer was the main attraction. Coaches from the LAFC soccer club staged clinics and games and distributed t-shirts and soccer balls to participants ages 5-16 who had visited at least seven tables offering healthcare materials and other resources. Players received a stamp in a Passport to Health booklet for each table that they had visited. There were 19 tables in all covering such topics as dental health, obesity and nutrition, AIDS education, respiratory ailments and alcohol and drug abuse.

“The kids all came to our coaches with the right number of stamps,” said Manny Martins, who headed the delegation of LAFC coaches and is director of girls coaching at LAFC. “Through the incentive of soccer, they were able to take advantage of the health side of things that they normally wouldn’t be able to access. It was a great atmosphere and the energy level of the kids was so high; they were easy to work with.”

13 / May / 2010  Latest News 

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