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Thursday, May 26, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesToys for Life Brings Message of Fitness and Fun to Territory's Kids

Toys for Life Brings Message of Fitness and Fun to Territory's Kids

Kindergarten student Nakyla King bounced and squirmed atop the small plastic chair she shared with her classmate, Naszir Warner, in the auditorium of Lockhart Elementary School on Tuesday. “I want to get a dolly!” Nakyla said hopefully at the Toys for Life event, a gift-giving celebration organized by Youth Lifeline America.

Founded by former NFL player Roland Williams, the St. Louis, Mo.based nonprofit, teaches children life skills through the arts, entertainment, and sports. Tuesday’s celebration focused on fitness, with each child taking home a bouncy sport ball and pledging to play with it for at least an hour a day.

King and Warner opted to squeeze together on a single front-row seat rather than risk missing any action at the high-energy event, which was one of five to be held at elementary schools across St. Thomas.

When the burly Williams bounded into the auditorium, the hundreds of kindergarteners, first- and second-graders sprung up from their seats and let loose full-throated screams of joy.

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“Every single one of you is going to get one of these balls today – isn’t that cool?” Williams thundered, pointing to several ball-stuffed shopping carts.

“Yeaaaaaaah!” the children gleefully shouted back.

Towering above the children, Williams’ broad-shouldered helper, Development and Programs Director Cedric Cobb, asked them to raise their arms and join him in a pledge.

“I pledge to play –” Cobb started.
“I pledge to play!” the children countered.
“With my toys for life –”
“With my toys for life!”
“At least 60 minutes each day –”
“At least 60 minutes each day!”
“To be healthy and strong!”
“To be healthy and strong!”

The children went on to promise that they will encourage their family members to be active alongside them. The event’s focus on family-wide fitness was one reason that members of the St. Thomas Lions Club East came out to help distribute the toys.

“Too many of our kids are obese, so this is a good way to make exercise fun,” said Lions First Vice President Donna Freeman.

Youth Lifeline America’s Caribbean Chapter Director Matthew Hodge said numerous government agencies and businesses contributed to this year’s Toys for Life program. Hodge said they included Southland Gaming, GEM Manufacturing, the University of the Virgin Islands Men’s Basketball Program, Fat Turtle, the V.I. Police Department, the V.I. Port Authority, V.I. Department of Human Services, the Financial Trust Company, Kellerhals Ferguson, Golden Eagle Financial and the Norma H.

Corporate sponsors were far from the mind of little Nakyla, who was sizing up her new toy alongside Naszir. Naszir, who hopes to be a firefighter one day, had already firmed up the afternoon’s after-school plans.

“Play basketball!” Naszir said.

Nakyla seemed to have completely forgotten her dreams of a dolly, having moved on to making her own active after-school plans revolving around her new toy.

“I’m going to go home, play, and go to sleep,” she said.

Similar celebrations are scheduled for Wednesday on St. John, and Thursday on St. Croix.

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Kindergarten student Nakyla King bounced and squirmed atop the small plastic chair she shared with her classmate, Naszir Warner, in the auditorium of Lockhart Elementary School on Tuesday. “I want to get a dolly!” Nakyla said hopefully at the Toys for Life event, a gift-giving celebration organized by Youth Lifeline America.

Founded by former NFL player Roland Williams, the St. Louis, Mo.based nonprofit, teaches children life skills through the arts, entertainment, and sports. Tuesday's celebration focused on fitness, with each child taking home a bouncy sport ball and pledging to play with it for at least an hour a day.

King and Warner opted to squeeze together on a single front-row seat rather than risk missing any action at the high-energy event, which was one of five to be held at elementary schools across St. Thomas.

When the burly Williams bounded into the auditorium, the hundreds of kindergarteners, first- and second-graders sprung up from their seats and let loose full-throated screams of joy.

“Every single one of you is going to get one of these balls today – isn't that cool?” Williams thundered, pointing to several ball-stuffed shopping carts.

“Yeaaaaaaah!” the children gleefully shouted back.

Towering above the children, Williams' broad-shouldered helper, Development and Programs Director Cedric Cobb, asked them to raise their arms and join him in a pledge.

“I pledge to play –” Cobb started.
“I pledge to play!” the children countered.
“With my toys for life –”
“With my toys for life!”
“At least 60 minutes each day –”
“At least 60 minutes each day!”
“To be healthy and strong!”
“To be healthy and strong!”

The children went on to promise that they will encourage their family members to be active alongside them. The event's focus on family-wide fitness was one reason that members of the St. Thomas Lions Club East came out to help distribute the toys.

“Too many of our kids are obese, so this is a good way to make exercise fun,” said Lions First Vice President Donna Freeman.

Youth Lifeline America's Caribbean Chapter Director Matthew Hodge said numerous government agencies and businesses contributed to this year's Toys for Life program. Hodge said they included Southland Gaming, GEM Manufacturing, the University of the Virgin Islands Men’s Basketball Program, Fat Turtle, the V.I. Police Department, the V.I. Port Authority, V.I. Department of Human Services, the Financial Trust Company, Kellerhals Ferguson, Golden Eagle Financial and the Norma H.

Corporate sponsors were far from the mind of little Nakyla, who was sizing up her new toy alongside Naszir. Naszir, who hopes to be a firefighter one day, had already firmed up the afternoon's after-school plans.

“Play basketball!” Naszir said.

Nakyla seemed to have completely forgotten her dreams of a dolly, having moved on to making her own active after-school plans revolving around her new toy.

“I'm going to go home, play, and go to sleep,” she said.

Similar celebrations are scheduled for Wednesday on St. John, and Thursday on St. Croix.