Gasol Foundation Heats Up the LA Boys & Girls Club Summer Program

During the home stretch of the Gasol Foundation’s first annual Healthy Competition, the Los Angeles Boys & Girls Club welcomed a host of special guests to end the competition with a strong finish.

In line with the Gasol Foundation’s mission of empowering young people to be more physically active, former college basketball players James Dunleavy, a University Southern California Trojan, and Lee Melchionni, a Duke Blue Devil, first brought their skills to the court for the boys and girls of LA. On behalf of the Gasol Foundation and the Wasserman Media Group, the players facilitated 3 exciting sessions for a total of 120 kids ages 10 to 13, leading individual and team-building basketball drills. Exercises included dribbling relay races, shooting drills and even competing with the 7-foot stars in knockout games, giving the kids one-on-one time to practice their skills.

lae1Ruth Rodriguez, Director of Healthy Lifestyles and Character Development for the Los Angeles Boys & Girls Club and coach for LA’s Healthy Competition team, explained, “I have seen so much improvement this summer. The kids are more self-motivated because they have been competing with one another.”

After the basketball activity concluded, the kids spoke with the players – and many even snuck back into the court for another session!

Isaac Garcia, a 13-year-old Healthy Competition participant, said that competing this summer has made him faster and healthier overall. Garcia offered the following advice for other kids hoping to lead healthier lives:  “Do the best you can, stay healthy, eat right, exercise. You can do it!”

Garcia also knows that making healthy eating choices is another important component of healthy living – an aspect of the Gasol Foundation’s mission highlighted by the Foundation’s ongoing partnership with the American Heart Association.

Volunteering with the American Heart Association of Los Angeles, Lisa Fontanesi, a Culinary Youth Educator, and Nora Stewart, Assistant Chef, spent two mornings with the boys and girls of LA teaching them about healthy and simple meals. Throughout her interactive sessions, the kids worked with fresh fruit, vegetables and other ingredients to prepare Chinese chicken salad, melon water, fruit smoothies, and even vegetable stir-fry.

lae2As a mom, Fontanesi – who runs the company Kidding Around the Kitchen – knows that kids can be picky and provides insight for parents. “If they cook it they eat it,” she said. “I have found with my kids that if you give them control or power they are going to eat their food. Foods are often thrown at the kids and often times food is the only real decision a child can make, so let them use it.”

Additionally, the American Heart Association Teaching Garden program visited the Boys & Girls Club of Los Angeles last week. With the expert support of military veterans and AHA volunteers Randy Ryan, an urban gardener, and Edgar Hercila, an irrigation specialist from Orange County Produce, Healthy Competition participants built their very own garden for the Club. After constructing the raised garden, the kids had a blast getting their hands dirty planting lettuce and watermelon.

When planning the Teaching Garden activity, Ryan sought to create learning opportunities that would stay with the kids beyond the summer “They learned how to work practically by seeing the mechanics of how a garden works, and where their food comes from,” he said.

lae3Ryan and Hercila are committed to sustaining the garden at the Boys & Girls Club, and plan on visiting the garden periodically to ensure its long-term success.

Through valuable partnerships with the Wasserman Media Group, the American Heart Association, and passionate volunteers, the Gasol Foundation offered unique learning opportunities to the participants of The Healthy Competition in Los Angeles and empowering them to live healthier lives.

For more information about these programs, recipes for cooking with kids and other tips for living healthier, visit:

For additional photos from The Healthy Competition in Los Angeles, click here.