What's new with our favorite fitness non-profit

June 18 finals week for students at Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis High School in Manhattan. With no classes scheduled on this particularly humid, sticky day, the last place you'd expect to find a group of students would be a school lobby especially a school lobby without air conditioning. Yet, despite the heat, the lobby was bristling with enthusiastic teenagers, who turned out to celebrate the newest Operation FitKids facility. The exercise area opened in a former dance studio that, like the rest of the school, was once featured in the movie “Fame,” a reminder of when the school was dedicated to the performing arts.

Although the school population only numbers approximately 550 students, there are big plans for the new fitness facility, which was generously outfitted by Town Sports International/New York Sports Club. Firefighters from the New York City Fire Department are working with the students in the facility to demonstrate proper exercise techniques.

Since community involvement is key to the success of programs such as Operation FitKids, Jeanne Dierickx, program director for Operation FitKids, praises the firefighters' participation. In addition to teaching the students about exercise, the firefighters will show the children how to reach goals and commit to a purpose. Dierickx hopes that the firefighter mentorship program will be a model for future facilities.

During the opening ceremony at Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis High School, Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen spoke on behalf of the fire department. This was a poignant moment because the day before three New York City firefighters had died in a tragic building fire in Queens. Commissioner Von Essen had spent the entire night talking to the media and tending to the firefighters' families.

Later in the presentation, Ken Podziba, the city's sports commissioner, stepped up to the podium with some exciting news. On behalf of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Podziba announced that Monday, June 19, had been proclaimed “Operation FitKids Day” in New York City.

It was a big morning, and an energizing way for Operation FitKids to kick off the opening of Club Industry East, an event also taking place in New York City. Once at the show, Operation FitKids continued to make a difference.

During Club Industry East, a young physical education teacher from a local school stopped by the Operation FitKids booth to ask about the program. The teacher spent some time talking to Dierickx and walked away with the promise that his school would receive several mini-trampolines, mats and jump ropes that Operation FitKids currently has in storage.

Although granting wishes isn't always so instantaneous, Operation FitKids tries to meet the needs of every request. To learn about ways that you can help Operation FitKids, including sponsoring a fund-raiser or donating equipment, please contact Jeanne Dierickx at (800) 825-3636, ext. 757, or at jeanned@acefitness.org. All donations are tax-deductible. Financial donations may be sent to Operation FitKids, 5820 Oberlin Drive, Suite 102, San Diego, CA 92121-3787.