Solomon Hill and Frank Vogel
Getty Images for UNICEF

Pacers Get Kids Active, Help Fight World Malnutrition

by Kyle Grand

Around Indianapolis, 4,300 children are working with the U.S. Fund for UNICEF to benefit their peers around the world, and yesterday, Pacers head coach Frank Vogel and forward Solomon Hill paid some of them a visit.

Vogel and Hill spent the afternoon at Charles Warren Fairbanks School 105, an Indianapolis Public Schools elementary, where for the last three weeks, 3rd, 4th and 5th graders have been participating in UNICEF's Kid Power program.

UNICEF Kid Power encourages children to be active in their daily lives. Each participant wears a band that tracks their daily movement. Enough steps unlocks a point, and for every 10 points their team unlocks, UNICEF delivers a lifesaving packet of therapeutic food to malnourished children across the globe. Simply put, the more kids move, the more points they earn and the more lives they save.

Vogel and Hill stopped by to let the students know the Pacers stood with them and were proud of their efforts, while also encouraging them to stay active going forward.

"We really appreciate that the Pacers organization came out to celebrate these kids who are making a big impact," Deputy Director of the Midwest Region U.S. Fund for UNICEF Beth McCostlin said.

During a school-wide rally, along with team mascot Boomer, Vogel and Hill got active with the youngsters by playing games, racking up activity points in the process. With the Pacers in attendance, the students seemed a little extra energized and motivated than usual, according to McCostlin.

"I think it amped the kids up," she exclaimed. "Today during the movement breaks during the pep rally, the kids had more of a pep in their step when they were stepping it out with Solomon and Coach and Boomer. It was just really awesome of them to come out here and celebrate the work these kids are doing."

Between activities, Vogel and Hill shared how they stayed active when they were younger, the importance of staying active later in life, how they continue to live healthy lifestyles as adults and thanked them for all they had done so far.

"I really believe in this program you guys are partaking in," Vogel said to the exuberant crowd. "Not only are you helping yourselves by staying fit and active, you're helping those that are less fortunate. I want to be a part of it because it's pretty special to me."

Hill followed his coach by saying, "Just to hear that you guys are so motivated was one of the reasons I wanted to come here and see you guys in action." "You guys are sacrificing to give other people opportunities they don't have. If I can be here and help you guys, I'll be here."

To close the rally, Boomer rewarded the students' efforts over the past three weeks with an epic dunk show. After he had brightened everyone's day, Hill stayed in the gymnasium to continue moving and playing with half of the group, while everyone else went with Vogel to have a discussion about UNICEF Kid Power.

With Vogel looking on, the youngsters shared the reasons why they wanted to stay healthy, why it was important to be in the program and what activities they would participate in to earn as many points as possible. Vogel even checked in on every group himself, offering his own suggestions and advice like any great head coach would.

"There's no question this is a great program," Vogel said. "It's a great combination of two noble causes, helping others and staying fit."

And the leader of the Blue & Gold was excited to give his time in order to congratulate and help the Charles Fairbanks students.

"[Being here today] is a big part of who we are as the Indiana Pacers," he continued. "We are here to compete for championships, but we are here to serve our community as well."

"The NBA season is a grind, a lot of long hours, lots of hard work. It's always fun to get out and do something fun like this."

No doubt it was a successful afternoon at Charles Warren. The students had a ton of fun, were thanked and rewarded for their hard work, and most importantly, the number of children around the world who are malnourished is smaller today than it was yesterday.

Learn more about UNICEF's Kid Power program in Indianapolis

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