On National Health-through-Fitness Day, scheduled for March 12, a delegation of sporting goods manufacturers, sports retailers, physical educators, celebrity athletes and association leaders will visit Capitol Hill to meet with more than 100 members of Congress to encourage passage of two legislative initiatives that will help Americans become more physically fit.
Organized by the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA), participants of the ninth-annual event will meet with congressional representatives and senators campaigning for the Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP) and PHIT (Personal Health Investment Today) Act. Since 2000, SGMA has spearheaded a lobby day for the sporting goods industry on Capitol Hill to help drive physical activity legislation.
Mike May, spokesman for the SGMA, said it's important for the sports and fitness industry to participate in this advocacy effort.
"The industry should support legislation that encourages physical activity -- it's good for business and it's good for the health and welfare of this country," May told SNEWS®. "It's also important because the school children who would benefit from more PE are not in a position to speak for themselves. It's also good for business to meet and get to know Congressmen from 'your neck of the woods.'"
>> PEP, a competitive grant program managed by the U.S. Department of Education, provides grants to local school districts to purchase equipment and train teachers in innovative physical education methods. According to the SGMA, its funding is a top priority in the association's commitment to provide quality physical education through schools and community-based organizations.
Already past lobbying efforts have rallied $75.7 million in PEP grants that will be awarded in 2008 -- $3 million more than was distributed in 2007. At this year's event, participants will be asking Congress to provide $100 million in PEP funding for 2009.
>> The PHIT Act encourages improved health through increased physical activity for all Americans by making it more affordable to play sports and engage in physical fitness and recreation activities through the use of tax incentives. The SGMA said the Act is a step in the right direction to reverse the obesity trend plaguing this country -- where 129.6 million Americans are overweight, obese and/or physically inactive.
The PHIT Act would change current federal tax law to allow for the deduction or use of pre-tax dollars to cover expenses related to sports, fitness and other physical activities. Americans could invest up to $1,000 annually to pay for physical activities by investing money in existing pre-tax Flexible Spending Accounts, Health Savings Accounts, Medical Savings Accounts or medical reimbursement arrangements.
Leading the delegation from the sporting goods industry will be former NFL running back/U.S. Olympic bobsledder/1982 Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker -- also the honorary chairman of National Health-through-Fitness Day. To date, joining him will be former NFL Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow (San Diego Chargers); former NHL player Warren Young (Pittsburgh Penguins/St. Louis Blues); and ex-NFL players Ken Harvey (Washington Redskins/Arizona Cardinals) and John Booty (Philadelphia Eagles).
In addition to athletes, various manufacturers and retailers will participate, including Julie Nimmons, chair of Schutt Sports in Litchfield, Ill., who said in an SGMA release there are many reasons why she plans to attend the event.
"The strongest reason is that it makes good business sense to participate in this advocacy effort. Frankly, industry-wide initiatives like the PEP Bill and the PHIT Act are dynamic because they will encourage Americans to be more physically active which helps increase demand for our products. The PHIT Act is a new piece of legislation so it's vital that we give it as much support as possible."
She added, "Spending a day on Capitol Hill with SGMA is an investment of time that will reap dividends -- both now and in the future."
Also, Accusplit is donating pedometers to participants so they can calculate how far they walk on Capitol Hill that day to promote physical activity in America.
SNEWS® View: As we have said many times in the past, if you have never participated in a lobbying and education event on Capitol Hill, there is no better time than now. It is a real learning experience to sit in a legislator's office with a group of like-minded industry colleagues and present hopefully convincing arguments about the bills included. And it's always eye-opening to realize you can make a difference.