Surrounded by thousands of cheering city school students, Newark Mayor Cory Booker kicked off opening day at Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium Thursday morning with "Let's Move! Newark Day," an exercise initiative launched by him last year.
"Everyone has come together today to make one fine point: That we, as a city, have got to move more," he said to the crowd as they chanted "Let's Move."
Booker teamed up last November with First Lady Michelle Obama at Maple Avenue School to start innovative programs with the "Let's Move!" campaign. Thursday's events, sponsored by the Prudential Company, Prudential Foundation, General Mills, Rutgers University, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Essex County College, Dr. Thomas Haveron and Healthfirst NJ, included an on-field obstacle course to promote an active lifestyle, according to Booker.
"The message we're trying to send out to all our kids is: This is as critical as educating your mind and making sure your body is healthy and fit," he said. "Physical fitness is such an important thing because without it, our kids live shorter lives ... they're not as successful in school ... they're cost of living is so much higher."
Shaheed Sanders, 14, a student at Maple Avenue School, said, while he does exercise, he attended Thursday's events primarily to see the game.
"I wanted to experience some of the stuff I haven't experienced before like ... I've never been to Bears Stadium before, so I just want to see the game," he said. The Bears played host to the Rockland Boulders. The Bears lost 11-5.
The mayor compared lack of exercise to cancer, saying it erodes children's potential. "It's like a cancer ... by having such high obesity rates and such low rates of activity, this is a big push ... with one central message," he said.
Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. said schools in the county, which includes Newark, are working to keep kids fit.
"Whatever we can do to help out ... not only with the City of Newark, but with all of our school throughout Essex County to motivate these young people and get them to move around and take some pride in their health," he said while in attendance at the game. "This is being talked about in school and that's a start. Now, the thing is to implement (exercise) and to have it as a form of a competition within the school system to show students it will help them later in life."