Story and Photos by Steven Piper
During the summer, the kids in the Boys and Girls Club of Long Beach at 700 E. Del Amo Blvd. spend the nearly ten-hour day at the following locations: the park, gym, game room and learning center. On Friday, June 19, a man armed with feathers, hula-hoops, stretching exercises and shoes about five sizes too big broke up the normal routine.
The Boys and Girls Club of Long Beach hosted veteran Ringling Brothers clown and comedian Dean Kelley, who led an hour-long CircusFit performance. CircusFit is Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s nationally accredited youth fitness program, which, according to the CircusFit website, is free for educators and group leaders. The performance was an effort to fulfill the club’s pledge of “yes I will” to being active during the summer months.
Kelley led 21 kids between the ages of six and 12 through a series of stretching and balancing exercises, cardio push-ups, jumping jacks, hula hooping, and a head-to-toe cool-down. Kelley, who flew in from Orlando, explained how the CircusFit program encourages exercise in a fun setting. “They are exercising and they don’t even know it,” he said.
Nine-year-old Amari Lindsey did not seem to be fooled by the act. “It was fun because we got to exercise, play and have fun at the same time,” she said.
Don Rodriguez, executive director of the club, also noted how the performance functions to disguise exercise and that novelty may play a part. “For some of these kids, it is the first time they have seen a clown,” he said. According to Rodriguez, some of the kids will have the chance to go to the Staples Center in July to see Zing Zang Zoom, a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus spectacular.
According to the CircusFit website, the amount of children that can be considered overweight has doubled in the last 20 years, increasing the chances of illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease, and that the circus performers are also athletes, “making them ideal real-life role models who can encourage young people to be active and fit.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics also states: “Children in poor and near poor families were more likely to be uninsured, to have unmet medical needs, delayed medical care, no usual place of health care, and high use of emergency room services than children in families who were not poor.”