Baltimore kids learn about exercise and nutrition at WNBA clinic in Penn North

One-hundred Baltimore kids learned the importance of exercise and nutrition through basketball drills Tuesday morning at a fitness clinic hosted by the WNBA at the Penn North Kids Safe Zone.

The clinic, which was co-sponsored by Kaiser Permanente, took place on the new basketball court across from the Kids Safe Zone. The center was created as a safe space for kids in the community to play in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death, and provides a free camp for 100 kids each summer.

Ericka Alston-Buck, founder of the Kids Safe Zone, said the basketball court was “almost unplayable” before the city Department of Recreations & Parks and Kaiser Permanente provided a combined $40,000 for renovations, which were completed in July.

The court now features exercise equipment similar to machines found in Druid Hill Park, she said. The court has been packed every day since it was renovated.

“Kids were literally tripping over holes and falling on the court,” Alston-Buck said. “Now, it’s beautiful.”

Tuesday’s clinic gave kids in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood a chance to break in the new court and learn about healthy lifestyle choices from basketball professionals. Former Harlem Globetrotter Charles “Choo” Smith, Jr., former Maryland Terrapins star Ernie Graham and Washington Mystics center Krystal Thomas led the children through various drills focused on their ball-handling, agility and footwork.

“I remember being out here, at their age playing on an outdoor court learning the game,” Thomas said.” So to be able to turn the other foot to give back to the community really means a lot to me.”

The children rotated through seven stations, each featuring a drill or challenge with a different fitness emphasis. Kamar Ferguson, a 9-year-old from West Baltimore, said the clinic allowed him to practice his shot and crossover dribble, and gave him advice on how to eat healthy.

“I learned how to be a basketball player, and I thank them for helping because I needed more help to play basketball,” he said.

Alston-Buck said that because the neighborhood is a food desert, many children in the area suffer from obesity. She said Sandtown-Winchester is also not the safest community for kids, leading many kids to stay inside and play video games rather than play outdoors.

Following the event, Kaiser Permanente presented the Kids Safe Zone with a WNBA Fit Kit, containing basketballs,…

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