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"Triple Play" challenges Boys and Girls Club youth

Frederick Ellis Dashiell Jr. | 12/23/2009, 6:19 a.m.
Boston Celtic Captain Paul Pierce poses with Matthew Castro and Nyjaisha Washington, both of Dorchester, at the Boys and Girls Club Triple Play healthy living and eating program. Frederick Ellis Dashiell Jr.

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Boston Celtic Captain Paul Pierce poses with Matthew Castro and Nyjaisha Washington, both of Dorchester, at the Boys and Girls Club Triple Play healthy living and eating program.

About 150 youth from Boston Boys and Girls clubs participated last week in Triple Play, a program designed to teach children the health benefits of eating right and staying fit.

“A lot of these kids live on chips and soda,” said Jan Goldstein, director of marketing and communications for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston. “Programs like this help them make healthier choices.”

Sponsored nationally by Coca-Cola, the program was developed in response to studies that showed education about healthy eating and living habits had a direct positive effect on youth in urban areas.  

“We’re trying to teach kids how to make healthy choices,” explained Toney Anaya, Coca-Cola vice president of public affairs and communications.  The program was also sponsored by Paul Pierce’s Truth on Health initiative and FitClub34.  As a surprise to the participants, Pierce was a special guest.  “It’s about working hard and playing hard,” Anaya said. “We feel that Paul Pierce embodies that.”

About two weeks ago the staff at Blue Hills Boys and Girls Club were told that the Triple Play program would take place at their club. Since then they have been preparing to host the youth and engage them in the three aspects of the Triple Play program, mind, body and soul.

 “It’s been stressful, but I’m excited,” said Jasmine Nichols, social recreation director at the Blue Hills club.  Carl Thompson, the athletic director of the Blue Hills club, agrees.  “All the running around is worth it when the kids see Paul Pierce,” he said. “Their expressions are worth it.”

The Triple Play started with the Mind Activity.  The youth engaged in a “Fear Factor,” styled-game that challenged them to eat healthy food, including asparagus, spinach and tofu prepared to look like ground beef – all of which appeared “gross” to the kids.  

The second component, the Soul Activity, challenged the youth to answer trivia questions about health and nutrition and living a healthy lifestyle.

After the second activity the participants were gathered in the gym and were treated to an appearance by Boston Celtic captain Paul Pierce who spoke to them about the importance of choosing a healthy lifestyle.  Pierce explained that when he was a child, he never had access to information about healthy living and healthy eating.

“It’s about giving [these] kids the knowledge and resources for healthy living,” Pierce said.  “As community leaders and athletes, we can be an inspiration to these kids,” he said.  

Josh Kraft, the Nicholas President and CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston, echoed Pierce’s comments.  

“It’s always great to get an athlete the kids look up to because the message means more,” he said.

After Pierce’s speech, the youth did the Body Activity, splitting into two teams to participate in a 3-point contest with Pierce as the rebounder.  The excitement was contagious as a DJ played popular music and the kids took turns shooting baskets.

The success of the event bodes well for both the Boys and Girls Club as well as future events of the same nature.  “We’ll be in the hub for all Coca-Cola Triple Play programs moving forward,” said Berkshire Partners Executive Director of Blue Hills Boys and Girls Clubs, Scott McLellan.  

But 14-year-old, Matthew Castro of Dorchester gave the best summation of the event. “It was awesome,” he said.