News from our favorite fitness non-profit

In the desert heat of Phoenix, Ariz., the students and faculty members of Valley Lutheran High School and the Phoenix fire department stood and cheered as they dedicated their new Operation FitKids (OFK) fitness facility to fallen firefighter Bret Tarver, who died in the line of duty in 2000.

“The students of Valley Lutheran knew they could make a difference and with their determination and strength, they are making an incredible change for their future and the future of students who follow,” said Ken Germano, OFK's founder.

The dedication ceremony brought tears to the eyes of many in the audience. Not only did the event memorialize the loss of Brett Tarver, it also remembered the hundreds of firefighters who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks on America. These firefighters were in the thoughts of all in attendance.

Speakers at the event included Harold Schaitberger (general president of the International Association of Fire Fighters [IAFF]), Ken Germano, Chief Alan Brunacini (Phoenix fire department) and Skip Rimza (mayor of Phoenix).

With generous donations by Life Fitness, StairMaster, Spri Products, CycleFX and Precor, Valley Lutheran's fitness facility is up and running. The students spent hours of their own time preparing the space, tearing down walls and painting. A memorial plaque in honor of Bret Tarver has been placed just inside the door.

Not only are the students of Valley Lutheran working out in their own gym for the first time, they are being mentored by professional firefighters, thanks to a new program called Fire FitKids created by OFK and the IAFF. Working together, the two organizations share the goal of increasing the health and wellness of children across the United States and Canada. The mentoring program will allow firefighters the opportunity to share their knowledge, enthusiasm and experience with children, improving the motivation, knowledge and fitness of their community's youth.

Valley Lutheran is the latest school to be touched by OFK, the youth outreach program of the American Council on Exercise (ACE). OFK is committed to enriching the lives of America's youth with enhanced education for healthy lifestyles and increased opportunities for physical activity. Through donations from fitness equipment manufacturers and health clubs, OFK brings new facilities into schools and communities.

Although granting wishes can be a bit challenging, OFK tries to meet the needs of every request. To learn about ways that you can help, including sponsoring a fund-raiser or donating equipment, please contact ACE at (800) 535-8227. All donations are tax deductible. Financial donations may be sent to Operation FitKids, 5820 Oberlin Drive, Suite 102, San Diego, CA 92121-3787.