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Brown, Menino dedicate opening of fitness center

Officials for the City of Boston and Boston University dedicated the opening of a new fitness center, designed to create healthy opportunities especially for young people, at the Boston Center for Youth and Families in Blackstone Tuesday.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and BU President Robert Brown spoke at the grand opening of the BU Fitness and Wellness Center at BCYF, a center BU created in collaboration with the city of Boston to provide access to physical training, nutrition counseling and wellness programming to families in the South End.

“This partnership speaks volumes for our approach to creating a healthier city,” Menino said during the ceremony. “It’s all about engaging young people and families in the community close to home for the resources they need to get active and stay healthy.”

Menino said the new center supports his Boston Moves for Health initiative, a program intended to make healthy living resources more accessible to Bostonians.

“I’m hopeful that this unique program will be the starting example for other organizations to partner with us to promote health and wellness for children and families throughout our city,” he said. “Fighting obesity and making Boston the healthiest city in the country is a team effort.”

Boston Public Health Commission, BCYF and BU have worked together to designate more than $1.5 million over the next five years to combat obesity, Menino said.

The center is run by multiple departments of BU, including the Physical Education, Recreation and Dance Department, Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, the School of Medicine, the School of Social Work and the School of Public Health, according to a Tuesday BU press release.

“The center brings together a unique set of resources from Boston University including the expertise of our fitness and wellness programs at the university and our leading schools of health sciences,” Brown said during the ceremony.

Brown said the new fitness center’s location broadens BU’s outreach in the Boston community.

“It’s a first for us in terms of expanding from the footprint we have on Boston University’s campus for fitness and recreation,” he said. “It’s an example of what others can do as outreach from their campuses to put these kinds of programs into the city.”

Executive Director of BPHC Barbara Ferrer said more than 33 percent of children in Boston public schools are obese or overweight, and the fitness center will be a step toward remedying such health concerns.

“It’s very, very rare that we would actually have so much investment from one of our universities in partnership with a city department — to not just help us with the capital improvements, but really to commit to long-term programming,” she said during the ceremony.

Sari Kalin, director of obesity prevention and wellness programs at the South End Community Health Center, said she hopes the new equipment and programming will attract community members.

“We’re thrilled with the investment that BU has made to build these facilities and give people a state-of-the-art place to work out,” she said.

FitWell at BCYF Assistant Manager Lindsey Wallis said she hopes the center will make physical activity and other health resources affordable and accessible to South End residents.

“[FitWell] is a unique partnership between BU and BYCF to combat teenage obesity,” she said. “The way we’re going to do that is to start early with teenagers to develop the habit of physical activity so it will continue throughout their lifespan.”

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