Mercedes-Benz USA: Investing in Better Health for Kids in New Orleans

Partner spotlight from PHA’s 2016 Annual Progress Report

No matter where they live, kids need opportunities to stay active. But perhaps nowhere in America do they need them more than in New Orleans, Louisiana. As a state with high rates of obesity, child poverty and infant mortality, it’s vital to provide resources for kids to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Jody Braunig, Executive Director of the New Orleans chapter of Girls on the Run, is acutely aware of this reality, but never expected help would come from a luxury car manufacturer.

Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) partners increase physical activity by providing equipment, funding for coaches and sports programming, and creating safe places to play in communities. Braunig’s program, which teaches confidence to young girls through physical activity, goal setting and teamwork, had been unable to reach more than a handful of schools. Braunig just didn’t have the staff time or money to put into expanding her efforts. But a $165,000 capacity building grant from Laureus Sport for Good Foundation (funded by Mercedes-Benz USA) changed all that, allowing her to hire a full-time program director, a 5K director and increase her own hours from part- to full-time.

The grant brought immediate benefits for the girls, Braunig said. “The funding was the springboard for us to grow our program. We had 1,200 participants, the most ever, in our 5K last year and it was the first time in six years we turned a profit. Last season we had 400 girls participate in our program – the most yet! Now we can reach out to more schools than ever.”

Braunig said she sees such a positive change in the girls, she never wants to turn anyone away for lack of funding. “It’s about so much more than running,” she said. “Running is a platform to educate and inspire these young girls. They learn to feel confident and happy about their bodies. They learn how to make positive choices. It’s about learning how to set a goal and accomplish it. Here, the goal is crossing the finish line — whether they walk, run, skip or jump across it.”

Fueled by Mercedes-Benz, Braunig hopes to get even more girls across the line in the years ahead.

View Mercedes-Benz USA’s 2016 Annual Progress Report verified results.

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