A local non-profit organization that provides health and wellness classes to youth around the country got its start by working with the Watertown Boys & Girls Club.
One for Health was created by a pair of friends since junior high school, Bruce Campelia and Tom Miller, who came up with the idea in 2011 while sitting next to Lake Winnipesaukee. They wanted to do something to help change the tide of rising childhood obesity and poor health in America, and came up with the idea of providing free classes.
Miller had experience building brands having started an advertising specialty business from scratch and making it into a firm that is well known in the industry. Campelia founded technology start-ups and later moved into health and created a wellness center in Pennsylvania.
In 2013, Miller got involved with the Watertown Police Foundation after the Boston Marathon Bombings, and the shootout in Watertown.
“I was contacted by Chief Ed Deveau and he said we need to raise some money here to help people,” Miller said.
He helped get companies to donate their services to create a website and get the “Watertown Strong” T-shirts printed by Three Sons in Watertown. The sales of the shirts raised money for the Foundation. After the shirts were printed they were stored at Miller’s warehouse.
“We shipped out T-shirts all over the world on behalf of Watertown Strong and in two-and-a-half weeks we raised over $100,000 that went back to the Watertown Police Foundation,” Miller said.
About a month later, members of the Watertown Police Foundation presented Miller with an award for his efforts. Campelia was there at the time and they told the Foundation about One for Health.
“Ed said, Tom we now have money and we are going to be providing grants to people who can help our community. Kids are first and foremost one of our concerns for a variety of reasons.” Miller said.
Miller and Campelia made a presentation to the Foundation about what they want to do with One for Health.
“We received a $10,000 grant,” Miller recalled.
The pair then met with Renee Gaudette, executive director of the Watertown Boys & Girls Club to discuss starting a program at the Watertown clubhouse. It rolled out a couple months later and used some of the programs that Campelia had prior success with to make a positive impact with kids.
Gaudette said an instructor comes in to work with some of the club members.
“They have a professional yoga instructor come in and volunteer to work with the kids,” Gaudette said. “They transition to the multipurpose room and do a nutrition lesson, and the kids most in need are provided with meal replacement bars to have over the weekend.”
The classes are weekly, and typically run over an 8 to 10 week session in the fall and in the spring. The sessions are popular and there is often a waiting list, Gaudette said.
The program available at the Watertown Boys & Girls Club would not likely be available without One for Health providing it.
“We rely pretty heavily on volunteers with skills and expertise in the community to share with our young people,” Gaudette said. “Yoga instruction is expensive so to have a volunteer come share expertise with the club is very valuable. And for a nutrition instructor to bring in expertise is not something my in-house staff can do.”
One for Health recruits yoga and nutrition instructors from the area to come into the Clubs they work with. The organization now works with around 40 Boys & Girls Clubs in different parts of the United States and provides the programs for free.
The partnership proved fruitful for both the Club and One for Health. By linking up with Gaudette and the Watertown Boys & Girls Club, Miller said she introduced One for Health to other clubs in the Boston area.
“From there, we wanted to let people know that the model we set up is cost effective, but it is also something that can be reproduced, stamped out across the country easily, and that we don’t have to be in Utah at Salt Lake, we don’t have to be in Santa Monica,” Campelia said. “We did the proving ground in Watertown and then we started to expand out and we have been accepted everywhere, almost without question. Our biggest issue is getting enough funds, because we’re little guys.”
Miller, Campelia and the others on the board of One for Health do not take a salary, so every dollar raised goes to the programs at the Boys & Girls Clubs. One for Health receives funding each year from Miller’s business, the T.R. Miller Foundation, and they have been accepted to be part of the Rodman Ride for Kids after the founder, Don Rodman, was convinced just five minutes into the pitch given by Miller and his daughter.
“This year we raised over $30,000 from the event, but it’s still not enough. We need more exposure,” Miller said.
A new fundraising effort involving frisbees for One for Health recently began with the help of the Boston University PR Lab.
“Frisbees are very popular in my world, at trade shows as giveaways,” Miller said. “It is a very inexpensive way to have your brand seen, and people can enjoy it. For us it ties into what we think is important, physical activity.”
For every $2 frisbee sold, Miller said, 50 cents goes to One for Health. The cost includes a company logo, and for every five frisbees a company buys one is given to a child of their choosing at a local Boys & Girls Club.
Campelia and Miller hope that their mission is something that people will support through the frisbee fundraising program or through donations. They have seen the program work.
“Kids might be at risk of Type 2 Diabetes. They go through our program and they stay. They follow what they learned in our program and change their eating habits and they don’t have to be at risk for Type 2 diabetes,” Miller said. “If we can save one child and put them on the path to better health, it was worth it.”