Once upon a time, kids spent their afternoons running around the neighborhood, tearing through the parks and complaining when the sun went down because their moms would call them home. Times sure have changed. Between school, extracurriculars, concerns about neighborhood safety and the draw of modern technology, today’s youth are living largely sedentary lives. And it shows. Childhood obesity has skyrocketed, accompanied by “adult” medical problems, like type II diabetes, high cholesterol and even stroke.
It’s a major problem that’s multi-pronged and societal, making it difficult to initiate significant change. But, that’s why invested individuals, like Heather Parisi, are so important. She and her father launched Flip2BFit and Fitness for Africa as a way to engage kids in physical activity through board games and family game nights. It’s a genius idea fueled by creativity, so we had to know: What inspired Heather’s creative genius? Read on to find out…
Girls Gone Sporty (GGS): Can you share a little about your personal history in sports and fitness and how that’s played a part in your professional life?
Heather Parisi (HP): As a young child I was a gymnast. I trained seven days a week with the intent of qualifying for the Olympics. By the age of 11 I was competing at Level 1 and had one goal in mind… Going to the Olympics. My life was one of dedication, commitment and training where I learned very quickly about setting my mind to something and going after it. Growing up with a lifestyle centered around dedication, commitment, inner strength and self reliance has enabled me as an adult to channel those characteristics into the business choices and career options I have pursued. As the founder of Flip2BFit and Fitness For Africa I know that the journey to success is going to be one requiring the same components that being a successful athlete did. As I started these two companies I knew that it was my personality and commitment to myself that would be the core of strength I would rely on to get from day to day.
GGS: You ended up suffering a major injury as a gymnast, but you pushed through to become a collegiate diver. How did that experience change you?
HP: Breaking my leg at the age of 12 and going through surgeries on and off until I was 30, truly proved to me that if you believe something is possible to never give up. I always knew that I would be able to have two equal-length legs at some point in my life. I always knew that a solution existed no matter what doctors would tell me. The experience of spending 18 years with two legs that were uneven, but eventually were surgically corrected, taught me that with resilience, dedication, determination and belief in yourself that anything you set your mind to will become a reality. No matter what obstacles or setbacks you encounter, with pure dedication, belief and research anything is possible. The experience also showed me that no matter what people think, say or believe about you based on a surface impression, you have to hold true to who you know you are and what you know you can and will accomplish.
GGS:What inspired you to develop Flip2BFit and Bakari, and what are your goals/dreams for the games?
HP: Seeing in the news how bad childhood obesity rates are and how many children are starving around the world is what inspired me. I recognized that healthy lifestyles are becoming something of the past. In the US., kids don’t understand what nutritional foods are or what the value of exercise is. They spend all their time exercising their fingers and minds, forgetting to move their bodies. Overseas, kids are lacking in education and nutrition, so they don’t understand that muscles need to be used in order to have a strong body to fight disease.
Flip2BFit was created as a platform to bring a healthy lifestyle to everyone that plays the game. The game introduces fitness, nutrition, individual goals, team work, competition and strategy. My overall goal is to promote a healthy lifestyle; to help everyone who plays the game to discover the realization that fitness is fun and that you don’t need to go to a gym. You just have to get up and move! My dream is to create a true brand around Flip2BFit that people look to as a resource for health, fitness and lifestyle. I want to have games for toddlers that open minds to dexterity exercises, hand-eye coordination and the basics of balance, as well as games for seniors that encourage senior citizens to get up and move! Flip2BFit will be a branded name meaning Fitness, Fun and Healthy Lifestyles, all through the platform of a board game.
GGS: Both children and adults struggle with sedentary lifestyles, what is it about children’s physical activity that resonates so deeply with you? Do you see your games as a way to reach both children and adults?
HP: I believe that children are tomorrow’s future, and if you can effect a change in a child today, you can effect a change in a generation tomorrow. Creating a platform for fitness based around the premise of a board game opens the opportunity for kids and adults alike to get involved and enjoy fitness again without the intimidation of a gym, the unknown of a class or the fear of being in front of other people while beginning a fitness routine. Flip2BFit games were created with four generations to assure that they engaged both kids and adults in active play.
GGS: What are the best ways to incorporate your games into day-to-day life?
HP: What I love most about Flip2BFit games is that they work at home with a mom and one child or in a school at recess. They are a great means of classroom activity for an entire class and a fabulous family game night that can have four families playing against one another or a family of four each taking a place on the game board. Whether you are two people or 40, Flip2BFit is a game that can be tailored to your own specific needs, allowing everyone to be engaged in active play the entire time!
GGS: Can you tell me a little about the organizations your company helps support? With so many great organizations out there, how did you make your choices?
HP: Flip2BFit supports several different organizations in the US and in the UK, all focused on bringing an end to childhood obesity. The organizations we support are:
- Fit 2 Be Kids
- The Fit Kids Foundation
- Fun Me Fit
- Kids Run Free
It was important to align Flip2BFit with organizations that were in the field working to make fitness a part of children’s lives. Today the Flip2BFit games are being used on a weekly basis in more than 10 classes per week with The Fit Kids Foundation and in the Saturday program for Fit 2 Be Kids and as a fitness take-home for Kids Run Free at their fundraisers. I am working with Fun Me Fit to become a distributor for the UK to help bring Flip2BFit games to England during 2013.
In my continued efforts to bring healthy lifestyles to all children and their families I have placed Flip2BFit within schools in Uganda and am working with the Ministry of Education to create a Phys Ed Curriculum based around the Flip2BFIt platform that will be used throughout the Gulu District beginning in 2013.
GGS: How can sporty women help support you and your company?
HP: I’d like to advocate to sporty moms, in particular, to bring Flip2BFit home to their families and to share it with their kids’ teachers to help bring the games into their classrooms. I truly believe that a site geared towards women is exactly where the game will find some legs and strength, as it is the Mom or the Teacher that will bring this game home.
GGS: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
HP: Flip2BFit and Fitness For Africa are solely funded by me. I have created and developed the Flip2BFit games with only the help of my dad in regards to the graphics and my niece and nephew for a child’s perspective on understanding the activities and the rules. I am in the process of launching a Fact/Fiction Nutrition Card Game in early 2013 and adding on Level 2 and Level 3 for the Flip2BFit and Bakari games so that the games can grow with children and their families throughout junior high and beyond.