“Fit for Service” Day Tests Minds, BodiesJanuary 19, 2014, By Justin Dennis, Johnstown Tribune-Democrat
JOHNSTOWN — Not only did area youths learn about the contributions the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. made to modern, unsegregated society, but their muscles will remember the vigorous workout they got Saturday while doing it.
The “Fit for Service” day brought local youths and their mentors together for a day of recreation and remembrance.
Organized through the GoodGuides Youth Mentoring Program at Goodwill of the Southern Alleghenies, it was the first such event held at Fitness Weights and Aerobics Gym, 200 Lincoln St. in downtown Johnstown.
“We’re really honoring (King) for his legacy of letting our young people know that we can make a difference in our community, one person at a time,” said Phyllis Bandstra, president and CEO of Goodwill of the Southern Alleghenies “That’s extremely important for our kids as they are working with each other and developing themselves as to who they are and that they really count and are important to our community.”
GoodGuides program manager Cindy O’Connor said nearly 100 youngsters, parents and mentors attended the event.
Their day started at 10 a.m. with a video presentation that followed King through his youth, his rise to the political stage as a voice for equality, his tragic death and his lasting impact on the country.
“Normally, it’s done in churches all the time,” said Oscar Cashaw, the gym’s co-owner. “They brought the aspect of using physical fitness and nutrition for the mentoring and volunteering.”
The groups were divided into pods, represented by a different minority cultural leaders like Mohandas Gandhi or Nelson Mandela. Kids trained on machines, learned about nutrition and portioning from the Foster Grandparents Program of Johnstown and were fed meals provided by Nutrition Inc. of Johnstown. There were also low-impact aerobics sessions and pingpong. The day ended with a recreational dance, set to the music of local benefit band Smooth Sound.
O’Connor said around 120 youths from Cambria County participated in the GoodGuides program in 2013, with about 50 mentors and 40 more kids on a waiting list. She said many kids actively seek the mentoring services.
Justin Dennis is a multimedia reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/JustinDennis.