UNICEF is the original kids-helping-kids organization. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who didn’t “Trick or Treat for UNICEF” as a kid, which was likely their first experience with charitable fundraising. Now in a new initiative, utilizing that same altruistic spirit, The U.S. Fund for UNICEF is launching UNICEF Kid Power, a program where under-active kids are incentivized to be more active by helping feed malnourished children — and it all happens with use of a fitness band.
Wearable technology has gotten charitable. The Kid Power Band is the world’s first “wearable-for-good™” Fitness band. Target, as the exclusive retailer, has teamed up with the U.S. Fund for UNICEF to help bring UNICEF Kid Power to households and students across the country.
Caryl Stern, President & CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, told Style Of Sport, “There are 2 reports… 1 in 4 American kids are underactive, and 1 in 4 kids around the world are malnourished to the point of starvation. You sit in your office and think, ‘How can it be that 1 in 4 kids is wasting what 1 in 4 kids is dying from. How do we marry that?’ Thus Kid Power was born.”
Here’s how it works: Kids wear the UNICEF Kid Power Band, a child-friendly fitness band they can use with the free Kid Power companion app. They go on missions through the app, learn about new cultures and earn points for completing activities and challenges. These points unlock therapeutic food packets that UNICEF delivers to severely malnourished children around the world. The more kids move, the more points they earn, and the more lives they save. Guests will be able to follow along on the UNICEF Kid Power website to track the total points earned, therapeutic food packets donated and impact made by kids all over the U.S.
The program already has a No. 1 fan: pop superstar P!nk (above) is the UNICEF Kid Power spokesperson. “Healthy living and positivity are at the center of my life,” she says. “With UNICEF Kid Power, kids and families can move and have fun, all while saving the lives of children around the world.”
The first pilot of UNICEF Kid Power took place in Sacramento, CA. schools in October 2014. As a classroom-based program, every kid is given a Kid Power Band, and every teacher has a tablet in her classroom, loaded with information about kids around the world and getting more active, along with challenges, goals and UNICEF based missions to motivate them to get moving. For every 2500 steps taken by a child, a set of therapeutic food packets is released to a malnourished child. According to Stern, “After four weeks you have a healthier child in America who has walked enough steps to bring a malnourished child up to nourishment.”
Thus far the funding has been through corporate sponsors and individuals. Phoenix Sun and NBA star Tyson Chandler (above right), UNICEF Ambassador and UNICEF Kid Power Champion, came to the table before anyone else. Says Stern, “We didn’t even have a prototype. He loved the idea because it’s not just about charity but about empowering kids, about physical activity. The other champion has been Olivia Harrison and The George Harrison Fund. They funded the pilot. They said, ‘Let’s build a prototype and see if it works.’”
What has been quite phenomenal is the kids’ response. In the pilot program UNICEF conducted, kids in a control group got the bands but were not part of the “Save A Life” program, where activity points earn therapeutic food packets for malnourished children. The control group was just “Get Healthy”, and encouraged activity for activity’s sake. What UNICEF found was that kids in “Save A Life” were 55% more active. Like Trick or Treat for UNICEF there is proof positive that kids are more motivated by helping other kids.
What is even more interesting about the classroom based program, Stern told us, was something they did not anticipate. Many of kids they targeted with the program are on food support programs themselves. “They’re food stamp kids, breakfast at school program kids, luncheon school kids. We have been awed by their response to this program about how empowering it has been for them to be the one who gives back instead of the one who gets.”
The challenge of the classroom model is the need to find funders. UNICEF was also motivated to make it a family-based program instead of school-based. Stern said, “We kept getting letters from moms. One wrote she used to take her daughter to school by subway. Now her daughter makes her get off a stop early and walk to earn her steps.”
The Target Foundation, which has provided a generous grant to fund Title 1 schools (75% or more kids on food support program), has begun the charitable initiative in funding school-based programs, but they are also working with UNICEF to bring to market the family-based program. Laysha Ward, Target’s chief corporate social responsibility officer, explained: “As part of Target’s focus on wellness solutions, we aspire to improve the health of the nation by making wellness a way of life. We also intend to build on our legacy work in education and hunger relief to focus on youth wellness, both in and out of school, and engage a whole new generation in being global citizens.”
The Kid Power Band retails for $39.99 and Target is donating $10 from the sale of each to fund the program. Target also will help expand Kid Power in schools across the country so that kids who might not otherwise be able can participate in the program to get active, save lives, and learn about helping others.
As an additional cog in this big synergistic wheel, Target has joined Disney and Star Wars: Force for Change to enable high-need schools in several markets to sign up for the program, completely free of charge. Schools will receive Kid Power Bands for their students, classroom tablets for syncing and tracking progress, and standards-based curriculum and content on malnutrition and global citizenship for keeping kids inspired and engaged. Stern says, “Kathy Kennedy (Lucasfilm President) and Lucasfilm are committed to ensuring that the movie be known as a force for change, not the movie that grossed the most money. They wanted the film to have a positive impact on society in a way that empowered youth to make that change happen. We heard that, which was music to our ears.”
Thus far Kid Power has successfully empowered more than 12,000 kids to get active and save lives. In March 2015, participating students in Boston, Dallas and New York schools walked more than 500,000 miles, unlocking 188,850 therapeutic food packets—enough for 1,259 children to receive a full course of life-saving treatment. Through this partnership, Target will help grow the Kid Power program to reach up to 70,000 students next year.
The one-size-fits-all UNICEF Kid Power band retails for $39.99 and comes in four colors: blue, orange, and two special Star Wars: Force for Change editions in black and white. The bands go on sale at Target.com Nov. 29, just in time for the holidays, and are available now for pre-order. They’ll also be available in select Target stores beginning in 2016.