America Supports You: Circus Brings Fitness, Fun to Military Kids

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 27, 2006  - The circus came to town today in the outdoor center courtyard of the military's headquarters.

Clowns and other performers with Ringling Brothers Circus brought a lesson of fitness and support for the military to dozens of children accompanying their Pentagon-based parents for the National Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day observance.

The event was organized in conjunction with DoD's America Supports You program, which highlights corporate and grass-roots support for military members and their families. It also recognized April as the Month of the Military Child.

In introducing the event, Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson said the performers were thrilled to entertain the "children of military heroes."

"This is a special month, the Month of the Military Child," he said. "This is for you kids so we can have fun and unwind."

In an interview with American Forces Press Service before the half-hour event, Iverson said he feels it's always important to salute military members, despite possibly conflicting views "about the current state of affairs."

"I think anybody who serves and puts their life on the line should always be honored, no matter what you think or what your politics are," he said.

This was Iverson's second Pentagon visit. His first visit was in April 2002 when he and 30-odd Ringling Brothers entertainers put on a show for kids at the then-Pentagon Daycare Center in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

W. Brad Bryant, vice president for field marketing and sales in the southeast for Feld Entertainment, which produces the circus and Disney on Ice shows, said Ringling Brothers is a strong supporter of the military and is proud to be a corporate partner of the America Supports You program. The circus provides a discount on admission price to military members at every performance and is even working to get an elephant on an aircraft carrier for a private performance for military members returning from deployment, he said in an interview.

Today's performance centered on a new program called "CircusFit." The Web-based program includes a 21-lesson fitness curriculum geared for second- through fifth-graders and available for anyone to use.

"It's our way of helping combat the increasing problem of childhood obesity and childhood inactivity," Enrico Dinges, a Ringling Brothers public relations specialist, said.

He noted that some of the world's greatest athletes -- acrobats, trapeze artists, and even clowns - make their home with the circus.

"We thought here's a great opportunity to take those fun skills, integrate them into a fitness curriculum and provide it to educators, youth group leaders and parents," he said.

The Web site provides information on all aspects of fitness: flexibility, hydration, nutrition, aerobics, strength, and balance and coordination. "The Web site is dynamic and interactive and keeps you wanting to go to the next level," Bryant said, noting his own two young children enjoy doing activities from the Web site.

Two clowns, a costumed character, and an aerobics instructor in today's program led children in attendance through a series of fun activities and skits focused on many of these tenets of fitness.

The clowns, Martha and Christina, led four military officers they selected from the crowd through a seemingly impossible balancing exercise that had the crowd in stitches.

Nine-year-old Bennett C. McNeill, whose Marine dad participated in the balancing act with the clowns, said he wasn't worried: He knew his dad could do it.

Bennett said his favorite part of the program was when his dad was pulled from the crowd.

For his part, Maj. Britt McNeill, who works for the Joint Staff, and the three other officers seemed to be pretty good sports in the face of the clowns' antics.

He later said the program contained good information for children. "Going through the exercises, and exposing them to the circus and the America Supports You program was good," he said.

Related Sites:

CircusFit []

America Supports You []

Photo Essay []

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