Annabel Grobe leads a class of children in jumping jacks, part of her Philly Phit program.

by Nina Jaeger

Throughout the school year the Wissahickon Boys & Girls Club has been a place where Kindergarten students can run, skip, jump, play catch and learn about healthy food habits while having fun.

The lucky students are part of “Philly Phit,” an original program that was conceived and nurtured by SCH senior Annabel Grove, who developed the idea through SCH’s Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership Venture Incubator program two years ago. This year Grove was honored with the Boys & Girls Club’s “Volunteer of the Year” award in recognition of her extraordinary efforts.

Grove envisioned a nonprofit program that would incorporate nutrition messages into fun playground games, with the goal of encouraging healthy habits that would reduce and prevent childhood obesity. Annabel recruited fellow high school volunteers to work with her and raised money for printing educational materials used in the program. The pilot program was launched in the School District of Philadelphia and evolved into the current after-school program at Wissahickon Boys & Girls Club.

Daniel Kelchner, director of the Wissahickon Boys & Girls Club, praised Grove’s leadership, saying that the level of commitment and time invested was unheard of among high school students.

“Philly Phit has been a wonderful addition to the Boys & Girls Club, and has quickly become a favorite program of our kindergarteners,” he said. “The development of the Philly Phit program and the educational impact it has had on our youth in the past several months has been astounding. It is a wonderful thing to see today’s youth so involved, inspired, and invested in the future and physical well-being of their generation.”

Philly Phit is the only program led by outside volunteers, and the club does not have to raise money for it – the program is self-sustaining, thanks to Grove’s successful recruitment of her peers. Kelchner acknowledged her unprecedented contributions by nominating her for the Boys & Girls Club of Philadelphia’s “Volunteer of the Year” award.

The award Grove received earlier this year reads: “In recognition and appreciation of your volunteer service on behalf of the Boys and Girls Club and the youth of our community. Your inspiring commitment is enabling our young people to achieve great futures.”

Watching Grove direct and interact with the kids, it’s clear that she has a great rapport with them and the healthy messages are being heard. She and her team creatively incorporate learning into all the fitness activities. In a game of “Freeze Tag,” for example, the only way that a child can be “unfrozen” is to call out the name of a fruit or vegetable.  Sorting games involving putting pictures of vegetables and fruit in big baskets as fast as possible has the added benefit of reinforcing sorting and differentiation skills.

While balancing academics, sports and college applications all year, Grove

managed to create a succession plan by securing 30 high school students to help run the program next year, ensuring that Philly Phit is sustainable beyond Grove’s graduation. Thankfully, the volunteers who take over the program will be able to draw on her experience should they need it as Grove begins at the University of Pennsylvania in the fall.

Nina Jaeger is an associate in the Springside Chestnut Hill Academy Communications Office