Make It Healthy, Make It Fun: Pau Gasol Discusses Gasol Foundation USA’s Impact And Future Goals.
Gasol Foundation USA brought 2023 to a close with a Galactic Sports event for children at Hoover Elementary School in Los Angeles on December 11. Gasol Foundation President and NBA Laker champion Pau Gasol gave an interactive basketball demonstration for the kids.
“At the end of the day, I love doing this,” Gasol said. “This is something that’s in me as much as anything else. So playing with children, it’s always been super fun, super rewarding. When you try to teach them, empower them, it is even more rewarding. And then ultimately, it’s really the appreciation and the interactions and the emotions from the parents. When a mom or dad breaks down crying because you have helped their
family — you have changed their life — that’s when you’re doing something special. If you can do that for one family it’s great, but if you can do that for many families, it’s greater. So that’s what we’re trying to do.”
In 2023, Gasol Foundation USA celebrated 10 years of children’s health efforts. Gasol sat down with All Things Orange County to discuss the foundation’s mission, the lingering effects of the pandemic on children, the foundation’s New Year’s resolutions and more.
“I’ve always had a high level of sensitivity for children before I was a parent,” Gasol said. “Now as a father, obviously, it takes it to a higher level. And you just want to do whatever you can to create a better environment and world for your children and everybody’s children because our life — obviously — it’s limited. And we just need to do whatever we can in order to leave them in a good place so they can thrive and they can do that for the next generation. So for sure I would like not just my children, but everyone’s to be able to again thrive, live in a better world with a lot of tools they can choose from. And live a healthy and long life, and a productive life and an impactful life to pursue their dreams. To be hungry, to dream, to be passionate, to be productive, to be fulfilled.”
Gasol said that the foundation tries to include all of its four pillars into every one of its programs: physical activity, healthy eating, sleep, and emotional well-being.
Gasol mentioned that sports create “safe environments for kids to share their emotions.” “It’s an activity that’s kind of conducive to show how you feel,” Gasol said. “Whether it’s angry, whether it’s relaxed, whether it’s really outgoing and funny, or more introverted, your characteristics will show. And it also forces you in a way to socialize and get out of your own comfort zone and sometimes complexes that kids grow up with and deal with.
Sports unites, so that’s why sports are so powerful in our world and they’re also powerful in our work.”
Gasol noted that the foundation continued to see the effects of the COVID pandemic onchildren in 2023.
“We’re still dealing with 2023 with the effects of the COVID pandemic,” Gasol said. “And the confinement and how that took a big blow into the emotional wellbeing of kids and the habits of kids. We’re still rebalancing the lifestyles of many, many people in different ways. And so that’s hopefully again, our impact. It’s that much more important re-establishing those habits that existed before.”
The foundation saw the pandemic’s effects after leading a research study in Spain.
“We saw that there was a huge increment of kids that expressed being sad, being upset, being depressed and it was a huge significant amount,” Gasol said. “I think it was like 20% to 25% of kids compared to the previous study, pre-COVID. So it was a huge impact as far as their emotional wellbeing.”
Gasol continued: “If you are more depressed, you’re sad, you’re probably not going to want to be out as much. You’re not going to want to play sports or be active as much. You’re probably not going to eat as well, you’re not going to sleep as well. And then overall, you’re not going to be in as good of a health state, and you won’t be developing as you could and thriving as you could. So that’s what we’re trying to do with Galactic
Sports, with all our different programs that we implement in different schools. Just trying to again, give them not just hope, but empower them and make it healthy, make it fun. And then it becomes natural and organic for them to create those habits so they can carry them on.”
Gasol stressed the importance of the support surrounding the foundation’s efforts.
“We’re trying to focus on something that we believe to be extremely important,” Gasol said. “And for that it requires a lot of support from all channels and all levels — from the private sector, from the public sector, from the third sector, from the educational and academic sector — from all sectors. We need to continue raising awareness about what we’re doing and the issue that this is causing before it’s too late.”
Gasol stated that the foundation’s New Year’s resolution is to continue to expand to impact more children and their families. The foundation will continue to serve vulnerable communities as Gasol noted that obesity is highly linked to poverty.
“This is a long term mission because it takes so much to be able to change environments, change behavior,” Gasol said. “At the end of the day, it’s a big mission that we’re facing and a big problem that we’re dealing with. The problem has gotten worse and worse in many ways. Sometimes they call it the silent pandemic, world pandemic. And it’s probably going to be probably one of the biggest, if not the biggest challenge of this century for kids.”
Gasol continued: “Now we’re seeing in developing countries there’s more and more and more kids that are obese. They’re eating poorly, they’re not physically active. The technology is taking us over. Now with artificial intelligence, it’s going to add to that. So we need to be really mindful. We’re at a critical moment in history to be able to start making decisions and taking control of our lives.”
Over the next 10 years, Gasol would love to see the foundation expand nationally.
“I’d love our programs to become present all over the country,” Gasol said. “I love our programs and our work through partnerships always because it is just what it takes. It takes a team effort to be able to tackle down this issue and literally change the curve and the line of obesity and what that has caused, which are cancers, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, hypertension, you name it. Cardiovascular diseases not too long ago took over for the number one cause of death in humans, and that all comes from poor habits. And there’s some genetics involved, but I think if you are proactive and you do a lot of preventative work and you adopt the right habits in your life early on, you can prevent or at least postpone some of those issues and diseases. So again that’s just a love for our work to continue to grow a lot over the next 10 years.
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Read more about the Gasol Foundation in our latest magazine article here.
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