No toy is more universally synonymous with childhood than a simple ball. Throughout the ages, kids young and old have found ways to fashion balls from all kinds of materials, even some not so pleasant sounding like pig bladders. But as long as it rolls, bounces, can be thrown, kicked, hit with a stick or butted with a head, we have maintained our love affair with the world’s simplest toy.
It’s funny how sometimes it takes the wisdom of a child, or in this case, two children, to grasp the important role a ball can play in whether a young person is active and fit or will become sedentary and inactive. In 2008, two wise Mississippi children, Wilson Furr (9) and Hartwell Furr (7) had a brainstorm that would get the fitness ball rolling across the state like nothing anyone has seen before. It all started with an idea about how to help Mississippi kids get healthier. “Why not just give them a ball,” the brother and sister asked, when their dad told them about how obesity and bad health were so prevalent among children throughout the state. The rest, as they say, is history.
With the help of the community, Wilson and Hartwell gathered balls and distributed them to local schools that needed them. Amazingly, they collected 138 balls in just three days. Within two years they had handed out more than 11,000 balls to 25 elementary schools with the help of donations from local businesses and prominent organizations. Eventually, the program, they called Just Have a Ball®, grew to such a degree that the Furrs decided to turn it over to The Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi to run the daily operations.
Just Have a Ball® promotes physical activity as being fun and taps into children’s natural tendency to play when given the opportunity, as a way to combat the childhood obesity epidemic in Mississippi.
The Partnership expanded JHAB to include physical education and nutrition components. In an assembly format, their health and wellness staff demonstrate and educate students on the role (or in this case the “roll”) that physical activity and proper nutrition play in maintaining good health and wellness, while showing just how much fun fitness can be. The result…they just have a ball, while also getting in some great physical activity. By 2014, JHAB had donated its 20,000th ball, and today has distributed nearly 28,000 playground balls in 28 Mississippi counties (as well as jump ropes and other sports equipment) to children in Mississippi who otherwise may not have had access to them.
To “keep the ball rolling,” so to speak, The Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi, along with event sponsors will present the annual Get Your Kicks On Sports Ball Thursday, April 28, 2016 to raise awareness and funds for the Just Have a Ball® program. The event, which will be held at The South Warehouse in Jackson, will include fabulous food, a cash bar, a silent auction, and so much more. The night’s featured guest speaker and chef for the evening will be Mississippi Delta native Elizabeth Heiskell, the Debutante Farmer, author, caterer, co-owner of Woodson Ridge Farms near Oxford and passionate spokesperson for the farm to table movement and eating fresh and local.
Join The Partnership and friends for an entertaining evening and do your part to help more Mississippi kids just have a ball! For information about Get Your Kicks On tickets and details about the event, visit www.healthy-miss.org or call The Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi at 601-420-2414.