Denver, CO: How do you help make a healthy community even healthier?

The GSK IMPACT Grant for Metro Denver is an 18-month charitable partnership with a well-established network of nonprofit organizations focused on helping kids in Denver live healthier lives and contribute to a healthier community.

While Denver is consistently ranked as one of the healthiest cities in the US, there are still healthcare challenges such as a recent rise in childhood obesity rates.

To address this issue and improve healthy behaviors among young people, The Youth-Driven Healthy Recreation Centers Collective received  the GSK IMPACT Grant for Metro Denver in 2013. With GSK’s support, this partnership of trusted nonprofits worked together over 18 months to build a healthier community in three Denver neighborhoods: Globeville, Elyria-Swansea and Northeast Denver.

The collective focused on improving the health of young people through a dual approach of healthy eating, active living (HEAL) programming and leadership development. More than 90 neighborhood kids participated in new cooking classes as well as sports and dance teams at their neighborhood recreation centers run by collective partners.

In addition to healthy activities, these students served as community leaders and came together to advocate for changes to the recreation centers that have contributed to an increase in overall attendance by more than 200%.

To get more teens to visit the recreation centers, the student leaders surveyed peers and advocated for improvements, including funding for a new picnic structure, kitchen appliances, and a teen room. They also created new programs to drive attendance, including a dance team at the St. Charles center to for local teen girls. The young people who participated in the initiative even designed and painted beautiful murals to make their recreation centers more inviting for their friends and family.

Throughout this 18-month partnership, these eight nonprofit organizations shared a common agenda, delivered mutually reinforcing services to young people in Denver, shared measurements and have built strong communications channels to ensure greater and more sustainable impact on the community.

The members of the collective are:

  • LiveWell Colorado
  • Share our Strength
  • Boys and Girls Club of Metro Denver
  • LiveWell Northeast Denver
  • Globeville Elyria-Swansea LiveWell
  • Earth Force
  • The Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation
  • Spark Policy Institute

Not only has this initiative made local young people healthier and more active leaders in their own communities, the collective has successfully engaged MyDenver and Denver Parks & Recreation as close partners, resulting in a lasting commitment to increase teen-focused programming at these recreation centers and in more locations across the city. We hope this successful model of collective partnership and engaging young people as leaders in making their communities healthier can be replicated in other communities throughout Colorado and across the country.