Fit to Win Event: Roslindale Community Center

ROSLINDALE, Mass. – Forty middle school students gathered Monday afternoon in the gymnasium at the Roslindale Community Center for the Boston Celtics and Covidien’s Fit to Win event.

If one were to slowly scan the gym prior to the start of the event, they would see the kids eating chips and drinking soda to wash down their snacks. Their unhealthy eating habits became apparent after speaking with a couple of the students.

Lionel, a tall, athletic 14-year-old listed hot fries, orange soda and jolly ranchers as some of his favorite snacks.

“I eat hot fries almost every day,” he stated.

Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce joins students in making a healthy dessert consisting of fruit.

Another student, 13-year-old Ty, shared his love of hamburgers, chicken nuggets and french fries from fast food restaurants. Additionally, Kyle said he works out but only because he's on a basketball team that meets three to four times a week. More important was his response to a question about other types of exercise.

“If I’m not playing basketball with my team," he responded, "then I really don’t do any other types of exercises.”

Celtics players Paul Pierce and Brandon Bass, along with Strength and Conditioning coach Bryan Doo and Lucky, looked to change the eating and exercise habits of Lionel and Kyle and the 38 other youth members.

After loud cheers accompanied the introductions of the guests, Bass and Pierce gave the kids some insight into their favorite snacks.

“Growing up and to this day, I love fruit smoothies,” said Bass. “Mixing bananas, strawberries and blueberries is delicious. I want one just thinking about it!”

“Growing up I used to eat celery with peanut butter,” said the Captain. “I would go and play basketball and come home so hungry. Celery and peanut butter were my go-to items.”

It was important to show the youth how easy it was to exercise and eat healthy, so the kids divided up into two groups for the activities. Bass took his group to the classroom for the eating healthy activity. Students were asked to pretend they were the chef at the finest restaurant in Boston. Bass was at the restaurant and wanted a healthy dessert but wanted it to look nice as well. The kids were tasked with creating a healthy dessert with fruit, a pineapple base and skewers. The overall winning team would win an autographed placemat from the two NBA stars.

“You all are doing great work,” commented Bass. “This is going to be a hard decision because I would eat all of these desserts!”

While Bass’ group was making fruit masterpieces, Pierce’s group learned how easy it was to exercise. With the help of Doo, the youth divided into teams and had one minute to flip cones either right side up or upside down depending on which team they were on. Following the first game, there were some heavy breathers!

“Man this gets you tired,” exclaimed Pierce.

After playing the game for 15 minutes, Pierce and Doo brought the youth to the center of the court.

“This activity was designed to show you how easy it is to exercise,” said Doo. "Even if you have a few cones, you can get with some friends and make an exercise activity out of it. Be creative. You don’t always have to play sports but you can jump rope or make up a game like the one you just did. The important thing is that you get up and move around every day.”

Pierce added, “When I was your age, I was constantly active. I liked to play basketball but instead of taking a train to the park, my friends and I would walk there. We were always out of the house playing some type of sport or game. I didn’t have much money growing up, but I still found ways to be active. My friends and I would use a tennis ball to play tag on the street in front of my house. I encourage all of you to be active.”

Following the first session, each group switched with Bass’ team moving to the gym and Pierce’s to the classroom. Pierce even attempted to create a fruit dessert but the kids definitely had better designs.

When all of the youth had learned how easy it was to eat healthy and exercise, the youth gathered back in the gym for the conclusion of the event, where Pierce shared a story from his past with the youth.

“Many people don’t know this but I wasn’t in good shape when I was younger," he said. "I wasn’t active at all but people in my life helped me turn the corner in my life. I became committed to something – basketball and sacrificed to reach my goal of becoming a basketball player. I became a better student because without good grades, I wouldn’t be able to play basketball in college. I was in the gym at six in the morning and instead of going out with my friends on the weekend, I was in the gym. Two key words you should take from this are commitment and sacrifice. Without those two, I would be healthy and in shape today and especially wouldn’t be playing in the NBA.”

Bass reiterated Pierce’s comments.

“Being active has always been an important part of my life," he said. "I’m glad we were able to come here today to pass on what we have learned throughout the years. I make it a point to go home every summer and host basketball camps for the schools I attended growing up. I want youth to know how important it is to be healthy.”

With all of the students being winners from the healthy eating contest, Pierce and Bass signed a Covidien Fit to Win poster for each of the kids. During this time, Lionel and Ty reflected on what they had learned.

“I learned that it’s easy to replace a bag of chips with fruit or vegetables when I want a snack,” said Lionel.

Ty said he learned the same thing but added that he found new ways to exercise.

“I always thought that playing sports were the only ways to be active but after playing the cone game today, I know it’s easy to get a group of friends together for an exercise activity," he said. "I’m going to use what I learned today to be healthier!”