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How NBA Stars Marc and Pau Gasol Combat Childhood Obesity

Photos: Courtesy of Joe Murphy and The Gasol Foundation

Olympians and NBA All-Star athletes Marc and Pau Gasol developed a passion for healthy living from a young age, in large part due to their upbringing. But millions of children across the world don’t have the same experience — as a result, their well-being is in danger.

That’s why the Gasol brothers, who are originally from Spain, launched the Gasol Foundation in 2013. With the organization, they hope to combat childhood obesity and overweight rates, an issue that currently impacts 42 million children but is expected to rise to 70 million by 2025, according to the World Health Organization.

Taking care of the future

For Marc, the foundation — which involves physical activity sessions and nutritional workshops — is as much about helping kids develop good habits as it is about boosting their emotional and physical health.

“We know how important healthy eating is for development and confidence … We really want to help them through that process,” Marc explains.

The Gasol brothers have long been involved with children’s organizations, from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to centers in their hometown of Barcelona, so starting their own initiative aimed at children was a natural choice.

“We’ve always been involved and believed that they are the future,” Marc says. “We have to take care of the future.”

Bringing the mission home

Although the Gasols began their foundation in Spain, in order to work to reduce childhood obesity Marc began Escola Bàsquet Girona, a basketball academy for children.

For Marc, creating the academy offered an opportunity to pay it forward to the community he left when he was drafted to the Lakers in 2008. Before that milestone move, Marc was a star in the club Akasavu Girona, which was dismantled after he left. By bringing a piece of his mission back there, he hopes to foster a new generation of athletes.

“Hopefully, one day those kids that we are training — and pretty much every kid, through sports — will be on a professional team in Girona,” Marc says.

Fighting for their lives

Ultimately, the Gasols’ goal is to close the gap between children who have access to healthy foods and activities and children who don’t.

The benefits are boundless: “When kids eat right, they have way more energy, they’re more stable, they sleep better and they’re more productive in school,” Marc says. “Once they eat good and feel good, it’s a huge thing for us.”

Confidence is a big piece of the puzzle, too, and the Gasols have witnessed the power that arming kids with the knowledge and resources to live healthy can have.

“To see a kid go from not wanting to play and staying inside the house playing video games and not playing to completely changing in one month,” Marc says. “[Becoming] healthy and having positive energy and a smile on their face — and then pushing their families to be healthy? That’s the kind of thing we want to see in more communities.”

Melinda Carstensen, [email protected]

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