By Melanie Otero
Not even a global pandemic could stop Wellington residents from winning their third Let’s Move challenge, besting 378 teams from across Palm Beach County in the highly competitive countywide competition by logging an impressive 26 million minutes of physical activity during March 2021.
Presented by the Palm Health Foundation and Digital Vibez Inc., Let’s Move invites residents to form teams and commit to exercising at least 30 minutes a day during the month of March. The highly competitive campaign has teams from municipalities, county organizations and other groups all vying for top prizes, which were awarded at a ceremony on April 16.
Hosted by the KVJ Show’s Virginia Sinicki at a live presentation at the South Florida Science Center & Aquarium, the Village of Wellington was named the winning 2021 Let’s Move team with the highest number of physical activity minutes. Wellington residents logged more than 40 percent of the total 59,472,053 minutes logged for the entire county — a record for the highest number of physical activity minutes in Let’s Move’s nine-year history.
Wellington is no stranger to winning Let’s Move, taking home the championship title in 2018 and 2019. What’s even more remarkable is that the number of minutes in 2021 were more than twice the number of minutes logged in either of the previous years.
“It took the whole community to win the award,” said Michelle Garvey, the village’s assistant director of community services. “To have so many people come together shows how important our residents believe it is to have a healthy community. We really appreciate them.”
Building a culture of health was exactly the idea behind Let’s Move when it was first launched in 2012 by the Palm Health Foundation, Palm Beach County’s leading community foundation for issues relating to health. Inspired by First Lady Michelle Obama’s 2010 Let’s Move national program to decrease childhood obesity, the foundation created the local challenge for adults and children to improve a variety of health issues through regular physical activity. The challenge promotes daily exercise as a way to combat illnesses like diabetes and heart disease, and strengthen brain health and life expectancy, among other benefits.
“Let’s Move is about taking charge of our health as a community by integrating physical activity, nutrition and healthy behaviors into our daily lives, and having fun while doing it,” said Patrick McNamara, president and CEO of the Palm Health Foundation.
“This is the campaign’s ninth year, and we could not be prouder of the amazing results,” added Wilford Romelus, founder of Digital Vibez. “This past year was full of unexpected challenges for everyone, but we came back stronger than ever.”
With the pandemic limiting in-person events, Garvey and her team under the direction of Community Services Director Paulette Edwards had to get creative to get — and keep — people motivated. The village’s instructors offered free classes, including aerobics, Zumba and dance classes through Zoom, giving everyone the ability to participate, from Wellington’s own 300 employees to seniors and youth.
Community organizations and businesses from sports teams to private schools to LA Fitness joined in to rally members and contribute. For kids, the village partnered with the Neil S. Hirsch Family Boys & Girls Club of Wellington to introduce new activities like Frisbee and teach football and soccer. A huge March Madness basketball competition brought kids out to the courts, and a dance club brought to the Wellington Amphitheater by Digital Vibez kept kids moving to the latest beat.
To get as many young residents as possible participating in Let’s Move, Garvey’s team knew they couldn’t just wait for the kids to come to them. They needed to take fun activities out into the neighborhoods. Program coordinators Ian Williams and Gus Ponce were just the guys to do it through their “Super Fridays” program.
Super Fridays began about three years ago as a way for Wellington to connect with youth by bringing activities to kids in their own neighborhoods.
“When Ian and Gus show up, it’s time to come out of the house, put the electronics down and have fun,” Garvey said.
For Let’s Move, it was a way to be sure all kids had access to the campaign and to continue opening doors to create relationships.
This lets them understand youth needs that the village could fulfill, such as tutoring, mentorships and scholarships to participate in programming.
“We make an impact on the kids, and the kids make an impact on us,” Williams said. “Some of the youth we reach are caring for younger siblings and just need to know we’re there for them. That’s what it’s all about, giving them something to look forward to every day.”
Another way the village cares for the community contributed to the Let’s Move championship. Every Tuesday during the month of March, 25 volunteers gathered at the Mall at Wellington Green to give away food to those in need, working with Feeding South Florida. The activity required quite a bit of physical activity, with volunteers running bags of groceries to more than 800 cars for the food distribution drive-through each week. “Between athletic programs and community service, we try our best to deliver on our health and wellness goals for village residents,” Garvey said.
Giving the credit to residents for bringing home the Let’s Move trophy, Williams added, “We really want to thank the community for being so willing.”
The 2021 Let’s Move campaign was sponsored by the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Health Specialty Center, Valley Bank, Wisehaupt, Bray Asset Management and the Quantum Foundation. For more info., visit www.letsmovepbc.org.