Golf Digest WomanNovember 14, 2009

Annika's Latest Cause

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Annika Sorenstam didn't play golf like the rest of us, so it's fitting that she hasn't retired like the rest of us. Annika and her foundation have partnered with SPARK, a non-profit organization that helps children realize the benefits of physical activity and proper nutrition.

"As with golf, the best way to achieve a healthy lifestyle is to develop good habits and routines at a young age," said Sorenstam. "My passion for health and fitness started when I was a kid."

Childhood obesity has increased for more than two decades, and SPARK wants that to stop. Instead of going straight to kids, SPARK trains teachers to relay important live-healthy and eat-well information. SPARK trained more than 23,000 teachers last year, which impacted more than one million students. Sorenstam's endorsement will strengthen SPARK's already-solid reputation as a leader in creating fitness and nutrition programs for kids, and SPARK's curriculum will soon be incorporated into several golf development programs, such as the First Tee.

"There are 517 middle schools in the state of Florida, with about 150,000 kids," said Paul Rosengard, SPARK's executive director. "The Annika Foundation and SPARK will work together to figure out how to get the SPARK curriculum in all 517 middle schools."

Beyond the obvious short-term benefits, curbing the childhood obesity epidemic is a bullet-proof component to reviving the nation's health care system.

"By reaching directly into the schools we can instill good health and nutrition habits in our youth," said Sorenstam. "Those habits will lead to a lifetime of benefits."

(Photo by Blake Avant, ANNIKA Foundation)

--Ashley Mayo