By Joanna Blonska, Senior Media Relations Specialist, OMHRC
Cold wind and occasional spring drizzle didn’t stop 35,000 children and their parents from gathering on the picturesque South Lawn for the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama kicked off the celebration on April 1. This year’s theme – “Be Healthy, Be Active, Be You!” – focused on nutrition and exercise.
The First Lady welcomed visitors from the White House balcony, standing next to the President and their daughters Malia and Sasha, the Easter Bunny and special guest Robby Novak, the 9-year-old YouTube sensation behind Kid President . “We want you guys to have a good time and keep moving and be healthy!” Mrs. Obama called to the crowd. She urged kids to run and play, and not to forget to eat their vegetables.
To help drive the message, mascots with names like Erika Eggplant roamed the grounds and beckoned children to take part in wellness activities such as healthy cooking demonstrations, basketball, dancing to music from the “Hop To It Stage” and rolling colorful, hard-boiled eggs with wooden spoons in the traditional egg hunt and roll.
Fitness drills in the “eggtivity” zone were organized by the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, supervised by volunteers and star athletes such as Olympic gymnast John Orozco, U.S. field hockey player Will Holt and members of the D.C. United soccer team. Head coach Ben Olson shuttled kids through obstacles that included running through tunnels, tackling football dummies and dribbling soccer balls.
With numerous children patiently lining up to take part in the fun, Council members Dr. Jayne Greenberg and Cornell McClellan talked with kids about the importance of incorporating play and exercise into routines to achieve their recommended 60 minutes of physical activity each day.
With April also kicking off the start of National Minority Health Month, Dr. J. Nadine Gracia, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health and Director of the Office of Minority Health, also lent a hand. She paired up with athletes to cheer on small tots and school-aged youngsters and encourage them to stay active and keep obesity – a serious issue affecting many minority kids – at bay.
This year marked the135th anniversary of the egg rolling tradition, which dates back to President Rutherford B. Hayes, who was the first to officially welcome the event.
Visit our Flickr photo gallery to view more pictures from the event.