Originally published May 7, 2012
On April 14, more than 190 children and Spelman College faculty, staff and students participated in the first annual K!DZ Walk to combat childhood obesity. Held on the college's campus and coordinated by the Spelman student organization Taking Action to Overcome Obesity (T.A.T.O.O.), K!DZ Walk was packed with speakers and activities designed to encourage healthy living as a way of life.
"As noted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 17 percent (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged two to 19 years are obese," said T.A.T.O.O. adviser DeKimberlen Neely, Ph.D., associate dean at Spelman College. "Considering the unfortunate realities of childhood obesity in relation to several illnesses, it was important for Spelman to address these jolting statistics right here in our own community."
With a keen understanding of how obese children have an increased chance of developing heart disease, hypertension and Type 2 diabetes, and witnessing the progression of obesity among children in the West End community, T.A.T.O.O. coordinated diverse activities and speakers to show K!DZ Walk participants how to incorporate healthy habits into their everyday lives.
In addition to a 1.7 mile walk around Spelman's campus, the event included Chef Keon of the Young Chefs Academy, who gave a cooking demonstration while former NFL player Marcus Dupree and Atlanta City Council members Cleta Winslow and Natalyn Archibong discussed the importance of making healthy lifestyle choices.
Their messages were reiterated through a class taught by Spelman College chemistry professor, Kimberly Jackson, Ph.D., titled "Kitchen Chemistry: The Science of Food," as well as a class taught be nutritionist and consultant Marisa Moore on eating out. The kids also enjoyed a high-energy dance lesson from choreographer CiCi Kelley, who has worked with entertainers such as Beyoncé.
Spelman alumna Miriam Archibong, class of 2009, founded T.A.T.O.O. when she was a student. Archibong spoke about the vision for the organization and K!DZ Walk.
"The idea was to establish an organization that would encourage people of all ages to take action 365 days a year to fight against childhood obesity," said Archibong. "Having a kids walk provided a nice platform to stimulate greater conversation about how to combat this challenging issue."
Since its establishment in 2007, T.A.T.O.O. has been dedicated to revealing the repercussions of obesity at Spelman and in the West End community. The organization is primarily focused on implementing programs and providing services that inform and influence healthy eating behaviors.
"I think it was simply amazing and the women at Spelman are amazing because they actually kept the dream going," Archibong said, reflecting on coordinating this year's K!DZ Walk with the current T.A.T.O.O. executive board members.
"We received so much positive feedback from the families who participated," Neely said. "Several people have inquired about creating something similar for their school and asked if we could help with the planning."