About 420 Middletown students were able to mix it up with basketball great Jay Williams and one of the best in the world of women’s soccer, USWNT midfielder Carli Lloyd, on Wednesday afternoon at Middletown South High School.
It was the third phase of the “Healthy U” camp — the largest childhood-obesity prevention program in the country — which included a joint free soccer and basketball camp for fourth- and fifth-graders in the Middletown school district.
With the increase of technology, obesity is affecting kids at an alarming rate in the United States, and in 2008 the Horizon Foundation for New Jersey and the New Jersey YMCA State Alliance created Healthy U, a collaborative initiative to combat obesity among New Jersey children.
Healthy U aims to prevent childhood obesity through nutrition education, increased physical activity and family involvement. It is offered in all 21 New Jersey counties in preschool, afterschool and school-based settings at more than 550 sites.
New Jersey natives Lloyd and Williams were excited to be able to mingle with the Middletown students on both the soccer field and basketball court.
“Being with the kids is the most important thing,” Lloyd said. “It’s great to be out here and give them a high-five, because that high-five can go a really long way, I know when I grew up I didn’t really have a live role model, so it’s so important that these kids can see us in a live setting.”
Lloyd stressed the importance of Healthy U, recalling not always eating the best as a kid and how important it is to stress healthy eating.
Williams and Lloyd were both happy to be back in Jersey. Williams, a former Duke star and current ESPN college basketball analyst, was excited to get on the court with the kids.
“I look forward to blocking a lot of shots and dunking on a couple of the kids,” Williams joked. “I’m here to have fun, but also here to make them understand nothing happens in life without hard work.”
Williams was also looking forward for the college hoops season and was very quick to say who his preseason favorite was this winter.
“Maryland,” Williams said. “I never thought I would say that about a team that was my rival back in the day, but they are absolutely loaded and talented.”
As for Lloyd, don’t expect her hectic life to slow down anytime soon. Between the National Women’s Soccer League and the approaching 2016 Olympics, her schedule will remain packed. Since winning the World Cup Lloyd said she believes the NWSL is heading in the right direction.
“Post-World Cup, we saw every team increase its attendance, which is great,” Lloyd said. “We are going into the fourth year, but we have to keep it going. Those down years are going to be the tough years; we just have to keep getting better at it.”