GENYOUth, a youth health and wellness nonprofit dedicated to creating healthier school communities, said it generated nearly $2 million during its annual fundraising gala on Dec. 4 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. The public charity’s flagship program is Fuel Up to Play 60, which was created by National Dairy Council and the National Football League to improve health and wellness in schools across the country. The program is in 73,000 schools, reaching more than 38 million students since launching 10 years ago.

“Each year our gala highlights and celebrates the strides GENYOUth has made in supporting the development of healthy, high-achieving students,” said Alexis Glick, GENYOUth CEO. “I am so proud to say that through the support of our corporate and foundation partners, along with our gala guests, we raised nearly $2 million — contributions that not only make our programs possible, but most importantly address the critical needs of today’s youth to be healthy, physically active and prepared to be vital members of America’s workforce.”

This year’s gala theme — “Rise by Lifting Others!” — embraced the importance and value of mentoring, inspiring, challenging and investing in youth to help them achieve their personal best. Steven Williams, CEO of PepsiCo Foods North America, helped present the organization’s Vanguard Award to Kevin Warren, commissioner-elect of the Big Ten Conference and former chief operations officer for the Minnesota Vikings.

“Remember, it all goes back to the fact that healthy and educated children not only perform better in school, but they are our future employees, leaders and, yes, consumers,” Williams said in passing the torch to Warren. “Let’s continue to give them the future they deserve.”

New to GENYOUth’s gala were the Genny Awards, which honored individuals who embody the leadership role that GENYOUth serves in school communities by helping more students “Rise by Lifting Others.” The charity said this year’s Genny Award recipients include:

  • Agriculture: Indiana dairy farmer and registered dietitian Sarah Kuehnert for her commitment to youth education in nutrition and agriculture. Kuehnert connects the dots to show the true source of food. 
  • Program Advisor: Ann King from Westchester Academy in Houston for her achievement in promoting the benefits of nutrition and physical fitness to her students as a member of the Fuel Up to Play 60 Program Advisory Committee.
  • NFL Leadership: Pro Football Hall of Fame member and retired Cincinnati Bengals offensive tackle Anthony Muñoz. Through his support of Fuel Up to Play 60 en español and the work of his foundation, Munoz is leading the way by inspiring Hispanic youth and their families to eat healthier, move more and build leadership skills through character development.
  • Health and Wellness Professional: The former district director of physical education and health literacy at Miami-Dade County Public Schools for 34 years and current project director at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Jayne Greenberg is a physical fitness trailblazer. Greenberg was one of the first to start an all-girls FLAG Football program in her school district and has been providing engagement opportunities for students with disabilities to ensure inclusion in play for all.
  • Corporate Leadership: Alexia Gallagher, vice president and executive director of the NFL Foundation at the National Football League, and Roman Oben, vice president for youth & high school football strategy at the National Football League, for their successful efforts in carrying the flag for in-school physical fitness with the NFL FLAG-In-Schools program.

Gala special guests and keynote speakers included James “J.B.” Brown, noted CBS sports studio host and CBS News special correspondent; Roger Goodell, NFL commissioner; Zygi Wilf, Minnesota Vikings owner and chairman; Mark Wilf, Minnesota Vikings owner and president; Joe Ellis, Denver Broncos president and CEO; Carla Hall, chef and TV personality; Arianna Huffington, Thrive global founder and CEO; and Katie Couric, journalist.

GENYOUth said its gala was generously supported by leaders and businesses from various fields, including agriculture, food, fitness, technology, media and sports. The evening was made possible through the commitment of corporate partners Corteva Agriscience, UnitedHealthcare, Alight Solutions and TDAmeritrade.

“The gala once again showed how much we all have in common when it comes to driving health and wellness priorities in schools,” said Pennsylvania dairy farmer Marilyn Hershey, who serves as chair of Rosemont, Ill.-based Dairy Management Inc., which manages the national dairy checkoff. “The opportunity for farmers and major business leaders and influencers to network and align on our shared values is critical to our continued success, and we’re thankful to GENYOUth for making it happen.”