Blind Californians Take Steps to Improve Health and Wellness

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.--()--The United States Association of Blind Athletes and Anthem Blue Cross Foundation have partnered with 13 agencies serving the blind across the U.S. to implement a fifth iteration of the National Fitness Challenge. Through the National Fitness Challenge, these organizations will provide more than 300 blind and visually impaired youth and adults with an opportunity to increase their physical fitness levels, as well as live healthier and more active lives.

“The NFC has been an excellent opportunity to really let those programs shine and give them new life. It’s a win-win for everyone that leads to healthier choices and healthier communities.”

“We are pleased to again team with USABA to help break down barriers, and leverage technology to help those with vision impairments enjoy the physical and emotional benefits of exercise,” said Brian Ternan,president of Anthem Blue Cross. “Together, we want to ensure that those with visual impairments are not denied the opportunity to lead an active life and have the opportunity to avoid the health risks that come from a sedentary lifestyle.”

Research has consistently shown that individuals who participate in regular physical activity to improve their health have higher energy levels, a lower risk of health-related diseases, improved psychological health, and lower rates of depression and anxiety. Unfortunately, because of the many barriers and misconceptions about their abilities, approximately 70 percent of the nearly 56,000 children and youth who are blind and visually impaired in the United States do not participate in even a limited physical education curriculum. Three agencies for the blind in California are trying to lower that statistic by offering sports programming and educational opportunities in their community around adapted sports.

In Los Angeles, Junior Blind has already recruited 26 enthusiastic participants who are blind and visually impaired to be ambassadors for health and fitness within the community. Each participant is receiving individualized coaching from Junior Blind’s recreation programs manager, Joshua Lucas, on how to integrate fitness into their daily routines. Lucas is tracking the team’s activity levels and keeping participants motivated as they approach Paralympic Day when they will have an opportunity to try and compete in adapted sporting events such as the 50-yard dash, long jump, kayaking and judo.

When the National Fitness Challenge kicked off in Sacramento on March 1, participants who signed up with Society for the Blind had a number of physically challenging activities to look forward to. In efforts to increase participant’s levels and step counts, the staff at Society for the Blind will be working with dance instructors, personal trainers, judo instructors and more. In addition to raising their overall physical activity, participants will also become more aware of opportunities in their community.

“Society for the Blind is honored and excited to again be a part of the National Fitness Challenge,” says executive director, Shari Roeseler. “This partnership with USABA and Anthem raises awareness and more importantly, participation of people with vision loss in health and fitness activities. We look forward to friendly challenges among our fellow participating agencies as we increase the physical fitness and overall health and wellness of our participants.”

Finally, in the Bay Area, Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired is helping more than 30 participants find creative ways to increase their daily steps by matching them with fitness partners, launching a Summer run club, promoting movement like yoga, qi gong and tap dancing, and connecting students to discounted gym memberships. Participants will be encouraged to participate in two special events – Cycle for Sight, a tandem bike ride in Napa on Saturday, April 22, and Bay to Breakers on Sunday, May 21.

“The San Francisco Lighthouse offers a variety of programs and services that support health and fitness,” says Evening & Weekend Program Coordinator, Serena Olsen. “The NFC has been an excellent opportunity to really let those programs shine and give them new life. It’s a win-win for everyone that leads to healthier choices and healthier communities.”

In addition to the grant funding, Anthem Blue Cross Foundation will provide volunteers at events across the state during the 9-month program. Local employees will have the opportunity to meet participants and help them achieve their health and wellness goals.

To learn more about National Fitness Challenge events happening at each agency, please contact:

Junior Blind (Los Angeles):
Lisett Chavarela
LChavarela@juniorblind.org
323-290-6289

Society for the Blind (Sacramento):
Lina Lloyd
llloyd@societyfortheblind.org
916-889-7517

Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired (San Francisco):
Serena Olsen
solsen@lighthouse-sf.org
415-694-7316

About Junior Blind of America

Since 1953, Junior Blind of America has remained deeply committed to helping children, youth and adults reach their greatest potential. Each year, Junior Blind empowers those who have physical, developmental and emotional challenges and their families through services that include early intervention, education, recreation, mental health, residential treatment and rehabilitation programs. Junior Blind is nationally accredited by the Council on Accreditation. To learn more, please visit www.juniorblind.org.

About Society for the Blind

For more than 60 years, Society for the Blind has created innovative ways to empower individuals living with low vision or blindness to discover, develop and achieve their full potential. Society for the Blind has grown from a dedicated group of volunteers that included the Lions Clubs of America to a nationally recognized agency and the only comprehensive rehabilitative teaching center that provides services for a 27-county region of northern California. The nonprofit provides low-vision eye care, life and job skills training, mentorship, and access to tools to maintain independence for 6,000 youth, adults and seniors experiencing vision loss each year. For more information or to make a donation, visit www.SocietyfortheBlind.org.

LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Founded in 1902, San Francisco’s LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired promotes the independence, equality and self-reliance of people who are blind or have low vision. We offer blindness skills training and relevant services such as access to employment, education, government, information, recreation, transportation and the environment. We also pursue the development of new technology, encourage innovation, and amplify the voices of blind individuals around the world.

About the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA)

Since its founding in 1976, USABA, a community-based organization of the United States Olympic Committee, has reached more than 100,000 blind individuals. The organization has emerged as more than just a world-class trainer of blind athletes, it has become a champion of the abilities of Americans who are legally blind. USABA’s mission: to enhance the lives of blind and visually impaired people by providing the opportunity for participation in sports and physical activity. http://www.usaba.org | Twitter: @USABA | Facebook: United States Association of Blind Athletes

About Anthem Blue Cross Foundation

Through charitable grant making, the Anthem Blue Cross Foundation LLC, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Association promotes Anthem Blue Cross’s inherent commitment to enhance the health and well-being of individuals and families in communities that the company serves. The Foundation focuses its funding on strategic initiatives that address and provide innovative solutions to health care challenges, as well as promoting the Healthy Generations Program, a multi-generational initiative that targets specific disease states and medical conditions. These include: prenatal care in the first trimester, low birth weight babies, cardiac morbidity rates, long term activities that decrease obesity and increase physical activity, diabetes prevalence in adult populations, adult pneumococcal and influenza vaccinations and smoking cessation. The Foundation also coordinates the company’s year-round Associate Giving program and its parent foundation provides a 50 percent match of associates’ pledges. ®ANTHEM is a registered trademark of Anthem Insurance Companies, Inc. The Blue Cross names and symbol are registered marks of the Blue Cross Association.

About Anthem Blue Cross

Anthem Blue Cross is the trade name of Blue Cross of California. Anthem Blue Cross and Anthem Blue Cross Life and Health Insurance Company are independent licensees of the Blue Cross Association. ® ANTHEM is a registered trademark of Anthem Insurance Companies, Inc. The Blue Cross names and symbols are registered marks of the Blue Cross Association. Also follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/AskAnthem or www.twitter.com/AnthemBC_News, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AskAnthem.

Contacts

Junior Blind (Los Angeles):
Lisett Chavarela
LChavarela@juniorblind.org
323-290-6289
or
Society for the Blind (Sacramento):
Lina Lloyd
llloyd@societyfortheblind.org
916-889-7517
or
Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired (San Francisco):
Serena Olsen
solsen@lighthouse-sf.org
415-694-7316

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Blind Californians Take Steps to Improve Health and Wellness

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