The July 4th promotional tie-ins have been nonstop lately, including the requisite parades, fireworks, mattress sales (are they ever not on sale?). But for some reason, there hasn't been an uptick, at least not in my area, of what I've come to think of as the Fitness Fourth. The Fitness Fourth includes events with names like Firecracker 5K. One example would be a run held just before a parade so that people can travel along the parade route and get the benefit of cheers from spectators - which doesn't generally happen at most foot races. But this year, I've noticed a distinct lack of such events. Maybe that's because the Fourth falls on a Wednesday, making it more difficult for people to plan long weekends, or maybe it's because everyone is so cautious not to schedule something that would conflict with another event, that nobody is scheduling anything.
Recently, a friend and fellow writer sent me a notice about a fitness event a lot of people could tie into: the Tennis in the Parks/Military Outreach Veterans Day Initiative. Promoted through the USTA's Military Outreach program, this event, which invites active-duty military and veterans' families to come try tennis at a "tennis party," is meant to increase involvement between this segment of the community and, of course, to promote wellness. There can be "Tennis 101" skill clinics, fun drills, games for kids, you name it.
The event is being promoted at the always-accessible public park level, since according to the USTA, 70 percent of all tennis is played on public courts, and the sport has shown growth there over the last eight years. And really, that's a great idea - just about every city has a public park (or several), and with the advent of equipment like easily setup temporary courts, portable pop-up nets and softer balls, it's possible to set up the event anywhere.
Something really great? This isn't a date-sensitive event, according to my friend, who is responsible for organizing several of these this summer. This event could be offered any time - although certainly, July 4 has the requisite patriotic tie-ins. Something even better? There's no reason to stop at tennis: parks could continue to market "sports parties" to military, vets and families: volleyball, fishing, kickball, yoga, Frisbee, a swim day, even nature hikes - anything that gets people outside and connected.
No matter what activity you choose, the result is a fun, beneficial event, and a great way to thank those who have served, as well as the families of those who continue to make that sacrifice. And really, doesn't it feel better to do that in person than by simply flying the flag for a day?