Friday, September 21, 2012

Game ON!

Every football player has heard it since his first day of Pee Wee football: “There is no ‘I’ in team.”  While every guy on the team has to do his individual part, not even a star quarterback can win the game on his own.

We can apply this concept to our community health.  Every one of us has to take responsibility for our individual health, but it takes a team effort to improve the health of the whole community.  That’s why UnitedHealthcare is bringing its Game ON! experience to 80 high school football games around the country to get kids and families excited about being active and staying healthy.

Game ON! is an interactive experience that encourages a healthy lifestyle through real-life opportunities.  Kids and adults can test their speed and agility on an obstacle course, try their luck at a football toss or visit the “cheer card” station to create posters that show their school spirit and offers a health tip. 

Here in New Jersey, the Game ON! experience will be at several schools in Bergen County during Friday night football games.  We’ve already shred the experience with fans at two great games, and we’re looking forward to more.  On September 7, we were at Old Tappan High School for the game against Indian Hills, and on September 14, we made a check presentation to Lakeland High School before they faced off against Paramus.  We’ve got three more games to go, so mark you calendar:

·         October 5; Lakeland High School vs. Kearny High School
·         October 19; Lakeland High School vs. Old Tappan High School
·         November 2; Old Tappan High School vs. Teaneck

Each of the participating schools will receive a grant from UnitedHealthcare to support their athletic or wellness programs.  The grants are our way of helping schools teach kids and families how sports can be a fun way to work together to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle.

We’d love to see lots of New Jersey high school football fans come out to the Game ON! experience, but if you’re stuck at home, you can follow the fun on Twitter or Instagram using hashtag #gameonuhc where you can see photos and obstacle course scores posted by the fans.  To see a video of My 9 News coverage of Game ON!, click here.

Students race for the best time on the obstacle course at UnitedHealthcare Game ON!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Calling all HEROES: New Jersey youth invited to “Step into Service” to fight childhood obesity

Childhood obesity is a serious problem across the nation, affecting more than 12 million kids, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The problem hits close to home here in New Jersey. A 2010 study from Rutgers University shows that among our major cities of Camden, Newark, New Brunswick, Trenton and Vineland, about 40-50% of students are overweight or obese.

That’s why UnitedHealthcare is calling on New Jersey youth to “Step into Service” and offering UnitedHealth HEROES grants to encourage young people, working with educators and youth leaders, to create and implement walking, running or hiking programs aimed at helping to fight childhood obesity.

Grants of up to $1,000 will be awarded to youth-led childhood obesity programs in New Jersey that include both an activity in which kids count their steps and a service component that increases awareness, provides direct service, advocates an idea or raises funds for a cause.  UnitedHealth HEROES activities will begin on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service (Jan. 21, 2013) and end on Global Youth Service Day (April 26-28, 2013).

To help in their programs, this year’s winners will have two mobile apps available to them.  The first is the American Heart Association’s Walking Paths app, which helps users locate nearby walking trails and calculate their length.  The second is UnitedHealthcare’s OptumizeME app which creates a social forum for providing encouragement, peer fitness challenges, and health and fitness tips.

This is the fifth year of the HEROES program, and UnitedHealthcare has awarded nearly $500,000 in grants nationwide during the first four years.  Last year, we had some wonderful programs win HEROES grants in New Jersey, including:
  • Burlington Township High School for “Project SOCCER” (Soccer - Obesity prevention – Community service – Conference – Exercise – Recreation), an initiative by the girls’ soccer team to educate the community about exercise and health resources.
  • Who Is My Neighbor? Inc. in Highland Park for “A Better World Culinary Camp,” a semester-long camp that teaches youth ages 5-25 about making healthy eating accessible, affordable and sustainable for all.
  • New Brunswick Tomorrow for its “Hub Film Club” Teen Video Journalism & Public Service Announcement (PSA) program, in which students created a video documentary about healthy food and physical fitness activities in the community to later use in PSAs.
  • FOCUS Hispanic Center for Community Development, Inc. in Newark for service-learning projects for students in its after-school program.  Students were able to choose community volunteer opportunities that involved nutrition, physical activity, health screenings and distribution of community resource guides.
  • Emily Fisher Public Charter High School in Trenton for its “SISTERS Circle” (Success, Innovation, Support, Training, Empowerment and Resources) program, a teaching and service-learning initiative for urban teens from economically disadvantaged communities that focused on life-long wellness and fitness, learning skills, academic achievement and workplace readiness.

The programs from last year were a great success and we look forward to seeing what New Jersey youth come up with this year to combat the obesity epidemic.

HEROES grants are available in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.  To apply for a grant, visit  The deadline to apply is midnight EST on October 15, 2012.  Grant winners will be notified in November 2012.
2011 HEROES Grant winners New Jersey Tomorrow

Friday, September 7, 2012

Ride 2 Recovery

On Monday, September 10, more than 200 cyclists, all injured veterans and their supporters, will push off on the Minuteman Challenge, a six-day, 330-mile ride from Boston to Fort Lee, New Jersey.

And I’m proud to say that I’ll be riding along with them, at least part of the way.

The Minuteman Challenge is organized by Ride 2 Recovery, a nonprofit organization that focuses on cycling to aid in the physical and psychological rehabilitation of injured veterans.  From indoor spinning training at military installations to multiday, long-distance rides, Ride 2 Recovery helps injured veterans heal through the challenge of cycling long distances using cycles adapted to their individual needs, including traditional road bikes, hand cycles, recumbent bikes and tandem bikes.

According to Ride 2 Recovery founder John Wordin, cycling helps injured veterans find a physical and mental outlet, whether alone or in groups.  As they rebuild their strength and conditioning, they are also healing the effects of post traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries and depression.  Cycling provides a powerful therapeutic exercise that they can continue for the rest of their lives.

This is the third year that UnitedHealthcare is serving as Ride 2 Recovery’s presenting sponsor, providing financial, in-kind and volunteer support to assist in the rehabilitation of America’s veterans.  Other sponsors, including the USO, the American Legion Family and others, have joined us to provide rest stops and meals that make the Challenge possible at no cost to the injured veterans. 

I’ll be riding with our veterans for the first two legs of the journey.  We’ll start off in Quincy, Massachusetts and ride to Providence, Rhode Island on September 10, then go on to Hartford, Connecticut on the second day.  The rest of the cyclists will continue on with overnight stops in New London, Connecticut and Oyster Bay, New York.  And I’ll be here with the rest of the UnitedHealthcare team to greet them when they arrive in Fort Lee, New Jersey on Friday, September 14.

After spending a night in Fort Lee, the cyclists will be transported to West Point to watch the West Point versus Northern Illinois State football game.

The Challenge will conclude with an Honor Ride on Sunday, September 16 that will begin and end in Fort Lee.  Riders will choose from three routes to ride, varying in length at 13, 36 and 62 miles, with the longest route stopping at the Haverstraw Bay County Park 9/11 memorial.

The Minuteman Challenge is not a race, but a test of physical and mental endurance that builds a sense of camaraderie among the veterans and their supporters.  I rode with them last year, and the experience was incredible.  The stories of strength and heroism among the veterans are humbling, and I feel privileged to be able to ride alongside some of our nation’s heroes again.

For anyone who lives along the bike route, I encourage you to gather along the route and cheer on our veterans.  The outpouring of support from the community not only motivates them but is also a very visible demonstration of America's appreciation of our veterans’ service.
For information on the exact dates, times and routes, visit the Minuteman Challenge website at

Injured veterans and their supporters ride alongside one another for hundreds of miles in the Ride 2 Recovery Challenge