LEXINGTON, KY, July 27, 2023 - The American Heart Association, a global force for healthier lives for all, recently donated more than 100 sports balls to Operation UNITE (Unlawful Narcotics Investigations, Treatment and Education), which will distribute them to children throughout Eastern Kentucky. The donation was presented during Camp UNITE – a free program that aims to instill healthy social and physical habits in middle-school youth, recently held at the University of Pikeville.

The American Heart Association in Central and Eastern Kentucky collected sports balls from attendees at the Central Kentucky Heart Ball in March as part of the event’s “Bring a Ball to the Ball” campaign. The campaign, which is sponsored by Kentucky Children’s Hospital and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, encourages children to get physically active to help them lead longer, healthier lives.

“Kids may not realize it, but when they’re playing and being active, they’re developing healthy habits and reducing their risk of heart disease later in life,” said Dr. Scottie B. Day, physician-in-chief of Kentucky Children’s Hospital. “With our partners at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, we’re excited to support Camp UNITE and their mission to help Kentucky’s kids build a strong foundation for a lifetime of physical and mental well-being.”

Operation UNITE will distribute the sports balls to elementary schools served by the UNITE Service Corps initiative, which will engage 62 AmeriCorps members to provide math tutoring and drug prevention education during the 2023-24 school year.

“Providing healthy, fun activities as alternatives to the use of any harmful substance is an important component of Operation UNITE’s youth drug prevention messaging,” said Crystal Smallwood, director of the UNITE Service Corps. “By integrating nutrition education and physical activity into the curriculum, AmeriCorps members encourage active, healthy lifestyles.”

Results from a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that 1 in 5 children in the United States are obese – a statistic that has doubled in the past 30 years. Currently, the State of Childhood Obesity ranks Kentucky as the second worst state in the nation for childhood obesity, with more than 25% of children between the ages of 10-17 being reported as obese.

"Unfortunately, many children don’t have heart-healthy habits, which can set them up for a lifetime of problems,” said Andrea Ooten, executive director of the American Heart Association in Central and Eastern Kentucky. “Anything we can do to engage kids with opportunities to stay active and eat well is a step in the right direction for a healthier generation."

The American Heart Association is helping to create healthier futures for America’s youth by not only working to increase engagement in regular physical activity and instill healthy eating habits, but through improving nutrition security, helping end tobacco use and vaping, supporting resiliency and more. For more information, visit www.heart.org/kids.


About the American Heart Association
The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for the public’s health and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for nearly a century. Connect with us on heart.org, Facebook, Twitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.  

For Media Inquiries
Afton Fairchild; afton.fairchild@heart.org
For Public Inquiries: 1-800-AHA-USA1 (242-8721)
heart.org and stroke.org