For Ashley Riley, it was the ultimate “ah-ha moment.” She was reading a magazine article about the Bay Area Youth Sports Foundation and immediately thought, “I can do something to help kids who aren’t able to participate in after-school fitness activities because of cost.”
With a blink of an eye, she founded The Fit Kids Foundation in January, which not only involves a lot of local people like Ashley on its board but has an office in downtown Menlo Park. “Isn’t this perfect!” she says to a visitor about the one-room space that houses two desks and lots of sports equipment.
If sheer will, determination, and commitment — not to mention enthusiasm — are key ingredients to a new venture’s success, then with Ashley at the helm, Fit Kids is destined to succeed. The non-profit’s goal is to get kids moving by providing after school-fitness programs free of charge to kids who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to participate.
Currently, Fit Kids has programs in three schools in the Ravenswood School District: East Palo Alto Charter School, Cesar Chavez, and Brentwood Academy. “We want to fine tune our curriculum before expanding, learning along the way what works best,” Ashley says.
The one-hour-a-day, eight-week program was developed by Russ Nuffer, who serves as the organization’s Director of Fitness. The goal is to help children improve in a number of areas, including hand-eye coordination, balance, aerobic capacity, and body awareness. Kids are tested at the beginning and end of the program to measure progress. “We offer real back-to-basic fitness,” says Ashley. “We don’t focus on any particular sport but rather combine fun and games for maximum fitness benefit.
“For example, Bosu balls are one of the the kids’ favorite activities. We use them in countless ways to really engage their interest.”
A mother of four, with a background in investment banking and a stint substitute teaching, Ashely may not at first blush seem to be the most likely person to launch a sports-oriented non-profit. But she’s long been fitness-oriented herself and was one of the founders of Circle of Friends, which supports Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital through volunteer opportunities, fundraising events, and personal philanthropy.
“I am so in love with Fit Kids,” she exclaims. “The kids are so fun and they have so much energy and they are so excited when we pick them up.”
People interested in coaching or volunteering for Fit Kids can contact Ashley through the organization’s website.
Photographs of Ashely Riley and Russ Nuffer with kids by Gino de Grandis, courtesy of The Fit Kids Foundation