UnitedHealthcare is awarding nearly 200 UnitedHealth HEROES grants to help kids develop programs that will motivate their peers to “Step into Service.” Awarded to schools and community-based nonprofit organizations nationwide, UnitedHealth HEROES grants will fund youth-led projects, which include walking, running and hiking, to help fight childhood obesity. Grants of up to $1,000 each were awarded to youth-led programs that include both an activity element in which kids count their steps and a service component that increases awareness or provides direct service around the issue of childhood obesity. An example of a program that has been awarded a grant is ‘Cache’ the Spirit of Health, a project in Lombard, Ill., in which students will count their steps along trails while searching for geocached treasures. Each of the 100 students has set a goal of walking 50 miles during the course of their project. HEROES activities will begin on Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service (Jan. 21, 2013) and end on Global Youth Service Day (April 26-28, 2013). UnitedHealth HEROES is a wellness initiative designed to encourage young people, working with educators and youth leaders, to create and implement walking, running or hiking programs aimed at helping fight childhood obesity. A complete list of grant winners is available online at www.ysa.org/HEROES. “Once again this year we were amazed by the creative ideas young people came up with to help fight obesity and encourage healthier lifestyles,” said Kate Rubin, vice president of social responsibility, UnitedHealth Group. “By planning, and then participating in the UnitedHealth HEROES program, young people are working to ‘Step into Service’ and give back to their communities, making a positive impact on the lives of everyone around them.” Childhood obesity rates continue to rise dramatically. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three children is obese or overweight, putting them on the road to lifelong chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Healthy habits, including physical activity, can lower the risk of becoming obese and developing diseases related to being overweight.