Congress hasn’t exactly been a fun place recently with debates over health care and other issues, so Thursday seemed a perfect time for Rep. Virginia Foxx to visit a Mount Airy recreation facility.
Foxx was a special guest at Riverside Park, where “Hero Day” was staged Thursday for children in the summer camp program of the city parks and recreation department.
Hero Day is an annual event held in conjunction with the camp that highlights local services such as police, fire, sanitation, recycling and others, allowing program participants to learn about what each does. Different stations were set up for the event where kids could see city fire and recycling trucks up close, learn about bicycle safety — and meet a member of Congress.
Foxx, whose Fifth District in the U.S. House of Representatives includes Surry County, was taking advantage of an August recess on Capitol Hill while in town Thursday. Her visit to Riverside Park included helping to serve lunch to kids at a picnic shelter as part of a summer feeding program provided by city schools.
In addition to being tied in with Hero Day, Foxx’s appearance was planned in conjunction with the Park Champions initiative of the National Recreation and Park Association. It permits park and recreation professionals nationwide to serve as ambassadors for their community to elected officials.
Park Champions across the country are hosting gatherings such as the one here Thursday, which highlight their parks and recreation departments and programs to U.S. representatives, senators and/or their staffs.
“This event demonstrates the importance of federal programs that help park and recreation agencies provide healthy meals and enrichment opportunities to children nationwide,” explained Barbara Tulipane, the president and CEO of the National Recreation and Park Association.
Tulipane added that her organization — which had representatives on hand Thursday — was “thrilled” to declare Hero Day at Riverside Park an association Park Champions event.
For Rep. Foxx, the occasion was a chance to revisit a familiar locale in her sprawling congressional district stretching from North Carolina mountain counties to the Piedmont Triad.
“I’ve been watching this park develop over the years, since I was a state senator,” said Foxx, who has held her congressional seat since 2005, after serving in the N.C. Senate for 10 years. “I’ve been here several times.”
Children need ‘organization’
As Foxx watched children being active and having fun during Hero Day, she said the local park and recreation department is supplying ingredients that promote a healthy lifestyle.
“Kids do need organization,” the congresswoman, a former educator and university administrator, said of programs that teach them about good nutrition and healthy choices. “It’s also important that they stay active.”
Childhood obesity has become a major problem, linked to passive pursuits such as playing video games, watching television or spending time in front of a computer.
“Part of the problem is they never get exposed to this early in life,” Foxx said of kids having opportunities to be outside and pursue physical fitness, such as those offered by the city parks and recreation department .
Along with interacting with the children, the congressional representative chatted with Mayor David Rowe and city commissioners in attendance including Shirley Brinkley, Dean Brown and Steve Yokeley.
Among others at the event were City Manager Barbara Jones, Parks and Recreation Director Catrina Alexander and Dr. Kim Morrison, superintendent of Mount Airy schools.
“We are excited to host Congresswoman Foxx to visit Riverside Park and to meet many of the heroes of the community as we celebrate healthy eating options and active lifestyles,” Jones added in reference to Foxx’s visit to a strategic recreational venue.
“What better place to do that than one of our regional parks and trail head of the Granite City Greenway?”
This was echoed by the mayor.
“We are so pleased to have Representative Foxx joining us for this celebration,” Rowe remarked.
“Our parks and recreation department serves as a multi-functional part of life as it provides so many opportunities to so many different people to do so many different things — we cover life from day care to Silver Sneakers and all points in between,” he continued.
“The opportunities are available, but we must choose to take advantage of them.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.