Camden Health and Athletic Association To launch with $1 Million of Funding

The Cooper Foundation, Norcross Foundation, and AmeriHealth New Jersey to fund new organization dedicated to creating comprehensive health and athletic programs for Camden youth

(CAMDEN, NJ) – With the goal of strengthening the community and keeping young people healthy and active, a new organization dedicated to expanding health and athletic programs is being created in the City of Camden.

Cooper University Health Care Chairman, George E. Norcross III, today announced the establishment of the Camden Health and Athletic Association (CHAA) to expand and encourage additional health and youth athletic programs for boys and girls in the City of Camden. Initial funding for CHAA in the amount of $1 million will come from The Cooper Foundation, the Norcross Foundation, and AmeriHealth New Jersey.

Mr. Norcross was joined at a press conference to announce the creation of the CHAA by Daniel J. Hilferty, president and CEO of Independence Health Group, parent company of AmeriHealth New Jersey; Susan Bass Levin, president and CEO of The Cooper Foundation; Congressman Donald Norcross; Camden Mayor Dana Redd; and other local elected officials as well as former Eagles quarterback, ESPN analyst, and founder of The Jaws Youth Playbook Ron Jaworski; former Eagle and five-time Pro Bowl wide- receiver and Eagles’ radio commentator Mike Quick; former Phillies centerfielder and recipient of the National League Golden Glove Award Garry Maddox; former Executive Director of the NBA Players Association, football wide receiver with the Redskins and Dolphins, and first African-American to play in and pitch a perfect game in the Little League World Series Billy Hunter, who was born in Camden; ESPN national correspondent Sal Paolantonio; and former Camden athletic stars, including Camden High School basketball star and former Cleveland Cavalier Dajuan Wagner.

“Strong youth athletic programs encourage healthy behaviors, create lasting memories and friendships for children who participate and their parents, and bolster a strong sense of community,” said George E. Norcross III, Chairman of Cooper University Health Care. “The Camden Health and Athletic Association will provide financial and administrative resources to help existing organizations as well as build comprehensive health and athletic programs to serve more young people in Camden.”

By working with existing recreation organizations in Camden and identifying new opportunities, the CHAA will serve as an umbrella organization to provide centralized administrative resources to create new athletic programs, establish fundraising efforts, develop new sports field and facility capacity and reservation systems, and create centralized purchasing of equipment and uniforms. The CHAA will also focus on developing and supporting community health related programs and coordinate its efforts with the Get Healthy Camden initiative of Cooper’s Ferry Development Corp., which was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“Youth sporting events have played an important role in many of our lives – creating a rich sense of community, building lifelong friendships, and encouraging healthy habits,” said Daniel J. Hilferty, president and CEO of Independence Health Group, parent company of AmeriHealth New Jersey. “That’s why AmeriHealth New Jersey is proud to support the Camden Health and Athletic Association’s mission to keep young people healthy and active through youth athletic and community health programs.”

The benefit of youth athletic participation is well documented. A major study by The Aspen Institute’s Project Play states that children who participate in athletics are less obese and have healthier eating habits, forty percent higher test scores, lower rates of teen pregnancy, smoking, and drug and alcohol use, and are fifteen percent more likely to attend college. The “Sport for All, Play for Life: A Playbook to Get Every Kid in the Game,” study indicated youth participation in sports across America is significantly lower in poor households than high income households and called for a revitalization of community- based league sports programs.

“Bringing people together to strengthen communities and promote healthy living throughout the City of Camden are among our top priorities, and our vision for the Camden Health and Athletic Association is just that – bringing people together and providing resources and expertise to build strong youth athletic and community health programs to benefit more families in Camden,” said Susan Bass Levin, President and CEO of The Cooper Foundation.

The Camden County Police and Sheriff’s officers have already offered to participate as coaches, umpires, referees, and mentors. As an initial step, the Camden County Board of Freeholders will undertake a comprehensive assessment of all athletic facilities and fields in the City to determine the condition of available venues and identify needs. County and city schools, including Renaissance schools, have agreed to make their sports facilities available for the CHAA sports programs.

The CHAA will be organized as a 501(c)(3), non-profit organization with a corporate board and advisory boards for each sport. The CHAA will enter into a management agreement for administrative support with The Cooper Foundation. The CHAA will begin by hiring an athletic director and its first athletic program will be a soccer league this fall and basketball to follow this winter. Next spring, the CHAA will create baseball and softball programs. Football and wrestling programs are also in the CHAA’s future.

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