Uniting Wellness card offers healthy way to raise money

Athletes at the Andre Agassi Prep Academy have sold candy and doughnuts to raise money for their teams.

The cheerleaders have worked in fast-food restaurants to earn proceeds from burgers and fries.

But in these belt-tightening times, athletic directors are realizing it’s incongruent for their schools to tacitly endorse the junk foods that perpetuate obesity.

In a change from the fundraising tradition of selling chocolate bars and cookies, many athletes will soon be selling a coupon card with discounts for gym memberships, golf rounds, yoga and yogurt.

The services offered on the Uniting Wellness card are “healthier than the usual hamburgers and tacos,” said Carl Britt, director of athletics for Agassi Prep near Martin Luther King and Lake Mead boulevards.

The card has been endorsed statewide by the Nevada Athletic Directors Association. It is the first time the association has ever endorsed a fundraising program, Executive Director Jerry Hughes said in a letter to members.

“We believe that in this era of fighting obesity, the notion of encouraging a healthy and active lifestyle through a school-based fundraising program is a stellar idea,” Hughes said.

Because of health rules banning the sale of candy and soda during the school day, fundraising involving sweets has practically become impossible to do on campus, said Ricardo Hunter, who retired two years ago as the vice principal in charge of athletics at Silverado High School in Henderson.

While fundraising has become more difficult, the demand for supplemental income has intensified with the state’s financial crisis.

“We’re all feeling the budget crunch,” Britt said.

The Uniting Wellness card, which is the size of a credit card, sells for $20 with $10 going toward to the school and $10 going to Uniting Wellness, said Vince Parker, the fundraising director of Uniting Wellness.

The card is good for a year and can be renewed online. So it could become a self-perpetuating source of school income, Parker said. His Web site is unitingwellness.com.

Parker has sought out services with an emphasis on health, but he acknowledged that “healthy” is subject to debate. He decided to include restaurants if they offered low calorie options such as salads.

Parker, whose daughter, Tiffany Parker, 21, played softball for Silverado and is a scholarship athlete at Colorado State-Pueblo, is promoting Uniting Wellness nationwide and has sold similar fundraising products in Missouri.

Colt Goodman, the football coach for Agassi, said the card is something he can “buy into.”

The cards might even promote a healthier lifestyle at home.

“Students are supposed to do the fundraising,” Goodman.

“But the reality is that the parents end up buying it.”

Contact reporter James Haug at jhaug @reviewjournal.com or 702-374-7917.

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