An Orange is the New Orange

Colorado Springs, CO | January 2015 | By Brian Kates

CO Colorado Springs Orange 410x410

She lived in the middle of a food desert, without access to quality nutrition and with little supervision available at times when she wanted to play outside. Having just finished kindergarten, life in some ways already seemed futile for Ms. Lilly, whose neon orange-colored fingers were noticeable to many within her inner circle.

August 11, 2014, marked a new era at Harrison School District 2 in south Colorado Springs. Following the decision made by the school board in May, this first day of school would launch the newly adopted schedule in which classes would begin and end later, all to offer instruction during times when students were found to be most alert.

In support of this effort, two city community centers established a before-school program to offer physical activity and the OrganWise Guys curriculum to students in need of supervision after parents left for work and before the breakfast program began. Among the students on the playing field and in the courtyard that first day was Lilly.

On this, her first day of first grade, Lilly began much in the manner that she finished her previous school year, by bringing her usual lunch of a bag of chips and soda. It was typical that Lilly would force herself to get up early and even struggle to muster the energy that allowed her to fully engage with her peers on the playground and throughout the school day.

Life began to change for Lilly when community center staff introduced her to Little Annie and her friends Hardi Heart, Luigi Liver and the other OrganWise Guys. Displaying great affection toward these health-conscious friends, within days of them informing her of the importance of diet and its direct connection to stamina and mood the soda and chips were replaced most often by fruit and milk.

Now beginning the second semester of the before-school program, Lilly is yet to complain about her stamina and is actively engaged each morning, always eager to play and learn. “It may seem strange, but one big change is that Lilly is no longer seen with orange-stained fingertips, one casualty of her previous junk food diet. Time previously spent licking fingers clean of chip residue is now spent jumping rope, playing hopscotch and making baskets — basketball, not weaving,” says program instructor Michelle Martinez.

While it is still unknown what will become of Lilly, whose life in most every way has just begun, it is certain to a very high degree of confidence that the lifestyle changes and transformative experiences brought forward through her participation in the OrganWise Guys programming will reap rewards for years to come. Perhaps the day will come when Lilly will have children of her own, whose only exposure to orange will be fruit, carrots and the Denver Broncos. Time will tell.