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Ex-Rams Coach Saves Program : Allen Puts His Money Where His Heart Is

August 06, 1987|JULIO MORAN | Times Staff Writer

Former Rams football coach George Allen, who thinks young Americans don't exercise enough, is making sure that some preschool children in Hawthorne and Hermosa Beach continue their early introduction to physical fitness.

The children attend Hippety Heart's Gyms in Hawthorne and Hermosa Beach, where they learn motor skills and health awareness. But last week the truck storing their portable gym equipment was stolen.

Rianah Powers, who directs the Hippety Heart program sponsored by the Hawthorne Recreation Department, said neither she nor the city could afford the $1,000 it would cost to replace the equipment.

Allen, a Palos Verdes Peninsula resident, read an account of the theft in The Times on Sunday and decided that his private, nonprofit National Fitness Foundation would replace the lost equipment.

"These kids have to have some equipment," he said in an interview this week. "My top priority is youth fitness. If kids develop good habits when they are young, then they might stay with them as adults."

Powers said she has received other offers of help, but the donation from Allen--who is chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports--is particularly special.

"I'm thrilled," she said. "I can't think of another person from whom I would rather have received this offer. He is someone whom I have always admired. He is doing such great things.

"I'm just so impressed with the hearts that people have. People have been calling asking what they can do to help us."

Children's Programs

Powers conducts three classes on Monday nights for about 60 preschool children at the Hawthorne Memorial Center. The children throw balls at a pitch-back net, seesaw on a teeter-totter, roll on a scooter board and hang from a small horizontal bar.

The program's focus on preschool children is what caught Allen's attention.

"In the Soviet Union they do a lot of preschool activities," he said. "Preschool activities are very important. What they (Hippety Heart's) are doing is great. We haven't done enough preschool fitness in this country."

Allen, who coached the Los Angeles Rams from 1966 to 1970, is chairman of the National Fitness Foundation, which runs summer camps for elementary school children and teachers. The foundation, established in 1983 and based in El Segundo, is building the United States Fitness Academy in Laguna Niguel, which will serve as a permanent location for Allen's summer camps.

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