Chris Danley started his career as a personal trainer and youth basketball coach. These days, he promotes Safe Routes to School efforts by helping more kids walk and bike to school. He also connects recreational facilities to community members so they can more easily lead active lives.
What inspired you to start working on childhood obesity?
Throughout my career I have seen youth obesity first-hand. As a former personal trainer, I had a wide variety of clients and nothing would bother me more than to see a young person fighting obesity and in such need that their parents felt it necessary to have them work with a fitness professional. As a youth basketball coach, I watched season after season players who struggled to run up and down the floor due to excess weight and a lack of conditioning. Finally, I have had the privilege of working with students through Safe Routes to School efforts and helped kids learn how to safely ride a bike or even safely walk to school, many of them suffering from the impacts of obesity.
How are you helping to reverse childhood obesity?
The two principal ways in which I am helping to reverse childhood obesity include promoting increased use and quality of recreational facilities and by improving the built environment in which children live. A few years ago, I created a planning model called an Activity Connection Plan. This model identifies community activity sites and the corridors accessing them, to then determine projects, policies and programs that can improve both. The idea is to foster active transportation for recreational purposes in the short term while building capacity and habits to increase active transportation trips for utility purposes over time. Thanks to several agencies throughout the nation, this model is being instituted in several communities.
What’s your biggest accomplishment so far in helping reduce childhood obesity?
Through Safe Routes to School planning work, I’ve been fortunate to watch several communities implement infrastructure project recommendations I have made and watched as those same communities participate in either walking or bicycle initiatives. I have had the absolute pleasure of helping with several bike rodeos and leading walk to school events all of which have raised awareness and increased rates of walking and bicycling. Beyond recent professional experiences, I have been able to teach kids to exercise and eat healthy which was incredibly rewarding.
Who is your role model in your work?
I have three role models who continue to inspire me. Dan Burden, a walking and built environment expert who has been leading the charge on the issue for the better part of three decades; Mark Fenton, who similarly to Mr. Burden has been a strong proponent of improving our communities through walkability and improved planning and a professional mentor; and Don Kostelec, my best friend and professional business partner whose level of thinking, dedication to walking and bicycling, and passion continue to inspire me.
What game or sport did you play growing up?
I was always physically active as a kid and played about every sport possible either through organized sports or recreation. My favorite sports were basketball and baseball, and my favorite recreational past times included riding my bike, playing kickball and riding my skateboard.
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Our own Zach Brooks speaks with a Leader each week to get a quick look at why he or she loves working to create healthy environments for kids. Want to take part? Visit Zach’s profile and contact him.