Celebrating 25 Years of Moving Richmond Forward
Sports Backers began as a traditional sports commission in 1991. Over the past 25 years, our mission has expanded from generating sports tourism in the region to increasing the physical activity of residents from all corners of our community. As we’ve developed and grown, equitable access to fitness opportunities has moved to the core of our mission.
From housing communities in Richmond to neighborhoods along the Jefferson Davis Highway in Chesterfield County, many Richmond region residents lack access to safe and affordable opportunities for physical activity. Fitness clubs aren’t located along Nine Mile Road in Church Hill, for example, and ones that do exist are either too far away or too expensive for residents to afford. In these underserved communities, the roads aren’t built with safe spaces for biking and walking either, all of which contribute to making physical activity inaccessible.
Our events still are and always will be an integral part of the work we do, but creating a healthier, more physically active region goes far beyond organizing races.
Here’s a snapshot of where our equity-focused work has taken us:
Kids Run RVA
Kids Run RVA supports over 50 run clubs in schools and communities across the Richmond region. The run clubs provide an opportunity for kids to exercise, make friends, and learn important values through physical activity.
“The run club (The Shady Hill Striders – pictured to the right) is great for the kids. It gives them an outlet for their energy, keeps them healthy, and teaches them the value of hard work,” says Todd Wilson, a volunteer with the Cornerstone Revitalization Center in Shady Hill Mobile Home Community. “It translates to so many different parts of their lives. When they sit down to do math homework, and it’s difficult, they can remember how they pushed through that same type of hardship trying to run a mile, and know that the extra effort will bring results. I can’t say enough about how valuable that is.”
Bike Walk RVA
Bike Walk RVA works with local residents, elected officials, and municipal staff to expand access to comfortable, connected places to bike and walk. Bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure has been shown not only to significantly increase physical activity and improve health outcomes, but also to close crucial gaps in the transportation networks of residents who cannot afford or choose not to drive a car.
As Chesterfield County’s Bikeways and Trails Plan was moving toward adoption last Fall, Bike Walk RVA worked with several neighborhoods and organizations along the Jefferson Davis corridor, giving residents a voice and helping them convey their challenges to decision-makers. These efforts culminated with a training on public testimony, and a trip from a mobile home community to the public hearing of the plan so residents could make their voices heard.
“The lack of an equitable transportation system is arguably the biggest impediment to the physical and economic health of the people living in our communities,” says Wilson. “Bike Walk RVA has given a voice to our residents, and newfound hope with the adoption of the Bikeways and Trails Plan.”
Keep it Moving
At Sports Backers, we truly believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to live an active lifestyle, regardless of what neighborhood they live in or how much money they make. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case – pockets of our region are disproportionately impacted by obesity and other chronic diseases. From free fitness classes at the Calhoun Center through our ‘Move Your Way to Fitness’ program to our outreach 10k training teams in Church Hill and Bellemeade, we do whatever it takes to bring fitness opportunities to the communities that need them the most.
The Fitness Warriors program is one of the shining stars of Keep it Moving. Currently in its 3rd year, the Fitness Warriors program trains members of the community with a passion for fitness and strong leadership skills to get certified as group fitness instructors, and eventually to lead free fitness classes in their communities. The Fitness Warriors currently provide a total of 41 classes per week in locations all across the region – Petersburg, Hopewell, Chesterfield, Colonial Heights, Charles City, Henrico, and Richmond.
The kind of real, systemic change we want to achieve for the physical health of our region simply wouldn’t be possible without the leadership, hard work, and dedication of the Fitness Warriors.
We didn’t know we would be here 25 years ago, and we don’t know exactly where the next 25 years will take us. What we do know is this – we are committed to continuing to do what we do best: spreading the joy of physical activity to every corner of our community, fighting to lower the rates of obesity and other chronic diseases caused by inactivity, and working toward a more equitable, healthier Richmond region. And we hope you will join us on that journey – here’s to another 25!
Join us on October 21 for a celebration of Sports Backers’ 25th Anniversary and a look into the future. RSVP here >>