Santa Cruz Warriors Help Mini Mermaids and Young Tritons Get Fit


Santa Cruz Warriors partner with Kaiser Permanente to launch “Get Fit,” a community outreach program to promote fitness, wellness, & proper nutrition.

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — The Santa Cruz Warriors kicked off their new “Get Fit” community program Wednesday evening at Kaiser Permanente Arena, hosting members of the Mini Mermaids/Young Tritons Running Club and other young families for a 2-hour seminar involving basketball drills, cardio training, and nutrition education.

Over the course of the clinic, Santa Cruz Warriors coaches worked with children and their parents/guardians to share a fun day learning about the game of basketball, the art of running, and the merits of eating right.

Following the conclusion of the day’s activities, Blue Man Hoop was able to sit down with Heidi Boynton, the executive director/co-founder of Mini Mermaids/Young Tritons, to talk about what her running club is all about and how they came to partner with the Warriors and Kaiser Permanente to get involved with the Get Fit kickoff event.

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“So we started here in Santa Cruz at Del Mar Elementary, and really it was to solve a problem, and the problem was that girls living at or below the poverty line didn’t have access to programming that helped them tap into their inner critic, into the voice that sometimes gets lost in the world, and didn’t really have a great outlet for movement outside of what they were getting in the school day,” said Boynton.

“And there are some awesome programs out there for kids, but not for kids that don’t really have money to eat necessarily at home….So I felt led to take this opportunity to create this program for girls and start the dialogue sooner. I thought ‘Man what if we could teach a nine-year-old that her worth is on the inside and that she has a voice?’

Boynton went on to explain how her boys club, Young Tritons, came to develop out of years growing Mini Mermaids, later telling the story of how a conference call with representatives from Kaiser Permanente suggested she meet with Santa Cruz Warriors Director of Public and Community Relations Gina Antoniello. Boynton said she felt “a ton of synergy and passions and a lot of alignment” in her initial meeting with Antoniello, sharing a desire to build healthy ideals within Santa Cruz County.

“We have programming from each end of the county and a ton of programming in Pajaro and in South County, so we thought it would be cool to bring South County kids up to North County so they could be a part of this, and it was just a great alignment,” Boynton said.

“This was just a very natural thing and I’m stoked by what (Kaiser Permanente and the Santa Cruz Warriors) are doing. I love the program and their investments in our kids in the county.”

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Speaking to Antoniello to get the story behind the scenes of Get Fit, it turns out that a health program had actually been in the works for a few years now. Being a basketball team playing within an arena sponsored by Kaiser Permanente, it only made sense for the Warriors to add a wellness program to their existing community outreach initiative.

“So we had Read to Achieve and Math Warriors that are comprehensive programs,” said Antoniello. “Read to Achieve now reaches 6000 kids per year and Math Warriors reaches about 4200 kids; we wanted to add this third pillar that encompasses everything about wellness, fitness, and health, and get the programming out all over the Central Coast.”

Though it may seem strange as to why a basketball team would take roughly four years to launch a fitness program, the difference this year is the fact Kaiser Permanente is currently working to expand into the Santa Cruz area. Per Antoniello, last year was the first year Kaiser Permanente sponsored Read to Achieve and Math Warriors, thus leading to a better opportunity to launch Get Fit.

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“We’ve been doing these Get Fit clinics since coming to Santa Cruz in 2012, and it’s just been a lot of good vibes,” Antoniello said. “Kids love it, parents loved it….We are a basketball team, so  promoting fitness, wellness, and eating right are all things organizationally we can align with.”

“Kaiser is an amazing partner. As you know they’re just kind of getting in Santa Cruz County, but they’re really invested in the community and this is a perfect partnership.”

From Kaiser Permanente via Warriors PR:

"“Part of Kaiser Permanente’s mission is to improve the health of the communities we serve,” said Irene Chavez, senior vice president and area manager. “Kaiser Permanente has a long history of working with local schools, nonprofits, community partners and the health care safety net to identify community needs and we look forward to continuing to build strong partnerships with the local community.”"

The Santa Cruz Warriors hope to engage the community in Get Fit clinics on a bi-monthly basis at the very least, setting a goal to reach 10,000 Central Coast youth in their inaugural year.

Their next event will be on Friday, October 28, in the form of a Vitamin Water Warriors Station at the Food What?! Harvest Festival, which will take place on the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) campus.

Warriors staff and Kaiser Permanente employees will come together to create a “Vitamin Water Warriors education station,” which will be visited by 300+ students eager to learn about great nutritional habits and new, innovative ways to live healthy.