This article was written by Jennifer Jennings, Community Health and Aquatics Supervisor, Annapolis Recreation and Parks Department and originally appeared on the Healthy Communities for a Healthy Future website.
Annapolis, the capital of Maryland, is a vibrant city proud of its charming colonial heritage and home to the U.S. Naval Academy. The Annapolis Recreation and Parks Department (ARPD) strives to enrich the quality of life for Annapolis-area residents and advocate for healthy, active living by offering quality recreational programs and community facilities within an array of parks and natural open spaces.
Annapolis recognizes that children are the community’s most precious commodity and that joining forces can be a key strategy to maximizing resources. Throughout the years, ARPD and the U.S. Naval Academy’s Midshipman Action Group (MAG) have cultivated an incredible working relationship to better serve and engage kids in Annapolis.
In the summer of 2013, Annapolis was awarded a Play 60 Grant from the Baltimore Ravens for the children’s running program Annapolis Mighty Milers, an outreach program that engages some of the city’s most vulnerable populations in Annapolis, including schools in low-income communities. The 2013 program included nine elementary schools, with about 300 participants between grades three through five. Through the six- week curriculum, children learn proper running form and pacing as they build endurance. This year a nutrition/hydration segment was added to the program, “Eat Rite, Choose Rite”. After six weeks of training at their schools, all participants come together at the Annapolis High School track for a one-mile fun meet.
For the past two years, the U.S. Naval Academy Midshipmen (“Mids”) have volunteered their time to run and encourage the Mighty Milers participants as they endure their final segment of the program, a one-mile fun run. With smiles on their faces, decked out in Navy Gear, the Mids stand in formation with an American flag held high as the singing of the Star Spangled Banner kicks off the event. The enthusiasm and pure joy of the Mids working in the community is a sight to see! We’re not sure who had more fun, the kids or the Mids?
Annapolis is committed to the sustainability of this partnership and is taking the relationship further this year. As well as supporting the Mighty Milers at the one-mile fun run, several members of U.S. Naval Academy varsity athletic teams visited the participating Mighty Milers schools as guest coaches. They demonstrated athletic techniques from their individual sports while incorporating the fundamentals of the running program.
ARPD and the United States Naval Academy MAG will continue to cultivate a relationship based on the Let’s Move! initiative. The Mids were honored last spring with a visit from First Lady Michelle Obama. They took her message regarding Let’s Move! very seriously. Together the Annapolis Recreation and Parks Department and the United States Naval Academy Midshipmen Action Group can make a difference in the lives of Annapolis’s children and families.
The City of Annapolis’s Let’s Move! efforts have extended far beyond this partnership and include trainings for caregivers on healthy nutrition, a revamp of the ARPD vending machines to incorporate healthier foods and beverages, and a summer food service program. The City of Annapolis was honored in both November 2012 and November 2013 as one of the top Let’s Move! Cities nationwide by the National League of Cities and is currently ranked number 3 out of 400 communities participating in Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties.