Boys & Girls Club of Jefferson City members got energized Wednesday for a new partnership with UnitedHealthcare and Hasbro, which donated 150 NERF energy game kits to the club.
"Our goal is to cut down on childhood obesity, and we know that 28 percent of children in Missouri are obese," UnitedHealthcare Chief Medical Officer Ravi Johar said. "We know that kids like to play, so if we can find ways to incentivize that, it's a win for everybody."
Each kit included a NERF Energy game band, a NERF Pro foam soccer ball and instructions on how to download the NERF Energy Rush app, which offers various physical activity games and challenges and tracks how many points they have earned by staying active.
The bands model a FitBit, except they track the level of energy burned.
During Wednesday's launch, eight BGC members received energy bands to test. In groups, BGC members rotated from various stations of jump rope, soccer and agility ladders until they completed a circuit.
For example, from 20 minutes of physical activity, a BGC member could earn 38 percent energy bars and 1,200 points to use in the app store. The more points you have, the more activities you can purchase within the app.
BGC Executive Director Stephanie Johnson said all club members in second through fifth grades will receive a tracker to wear while at the club. They will return them at the end of the day to be charged overnight.
"A big part of what we do at the club is to instill a healthy lifestyle in the children, and physical activity is a big part of that," Johnson said. "Every day, the kids will be incentivized to be active and burn energy so they can earn more points."
Johnson said Boys & Girls Club of Jefferson City is grateful to be part of such an exciting program.
"It's a great way for children to see just how much exercise you can get just by playing," she said.
Johnson said she and the BGC staff are still working to decide energy benchmarks for the members to further incentivize their activities.
State Rep. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, was also present at the program's launch.
"When I was growing up, there were no computers, iPads or cellphones, and we would have much rather gone outside to play than stay inside," Bernskoetter said. "Today, kids have so many games now that they don't have to go outside, so it's great that these energy bands will help them keep track of their activity."
Johar emphasized the message to parents is to be involved in their children's fitness lifestyle.
"Exercise doesn't have to be work. It can be jumping rope, shooting hoops or just playing," Johar said. "Kids learn from what their parents do, so exercising with them is the best thing they can do."