FANWOOD/SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- UnitedHealthcare has awarded $30,000 to the Fanwood-Scotch Plains YMCA to implement a project in its community to support children’s exercise and physical activity. The grant is part of a statewide initiative between UnitedHealthcare and local YMCAs to fight childhood obesity and physical inactivity.

The grant announcement concluded this year’s UnitedHealthcare Health Bee program, a quiz show-style competition that tested middle-school students’ knowledge about health, fitness and nutrition. Five competitions were held at participating YMCA branches – Elizabeth; Fanwood-Scotch Plains; Metuchen, Edison, Woodbridge and South Amboy; Somerset; and Westfield – all of which submitted proposals for the grant. With the award, Fanwood-Scotch Plains plans to build a teen center with an interactive floor and wall that will double as a space for students to exercise and hang out with their friends.

“Students enjoy the Y as a healthy space to be physically active and 'play' with their friends. However, during peak hours, we find that the gym and pool are often unavailable for them,” said Sherri Cognetti, senior program director, YMCA. “We’re thrilled to receive this grant from UnitedHealthcare to build a dedicated center for teens to be physically active.”

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Since 2009, UnitedHealthcare has worked with New Jersey YMCA branches to help make learning about health and wellness fun. This year, the company will donate more than $9,000 to 24 New Jersey middle schools that formed teams and competed for the chance to win financial support for health initiatives at their school.

“Pre-teen years are a critical time for children to develop healthy habits and attitudes about exercise and nutrition,” said Paul Marden, CEO of UnitedHealthcare of New Jersey. “We are grateful for the opportunity to work with the local YMCAs and middle schools to bring programs like this to life.”

UnitedHealthcare serves more than 1.7 million people in New Jersey with a network of more than 100 hospitals and 35,000 physicians and other care providers statewide.