Cause Celeb highlights a celebrity’s work on behalf of a specific cause. This week, we speak with television personality Carter Oosterhouse about his charity Carter’s Kids, an organization that builds and develops community parks and playgrounds in low-income areas to promote healthy living for children. The kids are tasked with using, sharing and caring for these spaces, which gives them an active role within their own communities. Carter's Kids started in Southern California with help from supporters in the Los Angeles Unified School District. In 2008, Carter’s Kids visited New Orleans to donate toys and rebuild the city’s Excellence Child Care Center with contributions from Nautica Fragrances. They also visited Miami to refurbish the playground of the day care center at the Hispanic Unity of Florida and also donated exercise toys.
Oosterhouse hosts HGTV’s "Carter Can" and "Red, Hot & Green," which gives lifestyle advice to his viewers. His specialty is in "green living." Oosterhouse first shot to fame as the carpenter in "Trading Spaces." He has also appeared in a variety of national media outlets and has partnered with Coty/Nautica as the face of their men’s fragrances, Voyages and Sunset Voyages.
Q: What is Carter’s Kids?
Oosterhouse: Carter's Kids is a nonprofit organization that builds playgrounds and outdoor spaces or refurbishes old ones for kids in order to fight childhood obesity. It's no surprise that the rate of overweight children has increased in recent years. As of today 1 out of 3 kids is obese in this country. As adults we need to change this and help kids get motivated. When I was a kid I was always outside doing something but it was truly easier back then.
Today kids have more opportunities to be inside and stagnate than ever before. Technology has made wonderful strides in the last 20 years but it has also consumed a lot of time that could be spent outside. This is now a growing concern for parents. As the scale goes up so do health problems that were once confined to adults such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
Q: What inspired you to start your own organization rather than connect with one that already exists?
Oosterhouse: Initially I thought building playgrounds would be easy. As a carpenter I felt that I could share some of my talents with people who could use them. I wanted to be truly hands-on and make the decisions myself, so starting my own organization made the most sense for me. Our mission is simple: build as many playgrounds as possible without any hassle or headache. If the project makes sense, then we jump on it. If the project is going to entail a lot of red tape, we move on to the next one.
Q: What is the most moving moment you had while working with Carter’s Kids?
Oosterhouse: We are a fairly new organization so I really feel that every build has been hugely successful and inspirational. Recently we did have an event at a Boys & Girls Club in Dallas where we teamed up with Dwayne Wade and he surprised all of the kids at the opening ceremony. He was great, the kids were able to ask questions and just hang out with him. These playgrounds can really help kids curb childhood obesity and when we get people like Dwayne Wade showing up to an event, which just makes it truly amazing!
Q: What is your goal for Carter’s Kids in the future?
Oosterhouse: When we started Carter's Kids we worked alongside Kirk and Ann Douglas. Their organization builds playground specifically for LAUSD. They have built more than 400 playgrounds for LAUSD and made a huge impact in Los Angeles. It’s a remarkable accomplishment. I am blown away by what they have achieved. Fortunately, I'm a pretty young guy so I hope to reach that goal and surpass it.
But the main reason I started this is to keep kids active and physically fit. If you think about it, kids have a new video game on the market every week. That's tough competition, but kids are 400 percent more likely to be physically active if they have an attractive place to play. They just need someone to continue to build beautiful playgrounds.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Oosterhouse: The project we’re doing the NBA All-Star weekend [Feb. 13-14]. We’re working with the mayor of Dallas, a couple of other politicians within the area, some senators, and then of course, some NBA all-stars. Notably Dwayne Wade and he helped out a time with his project. So it’s Carter’s Kids teaming up with Wade’s World, which is his organization, and hopefully we’ll get a lot of all-stars.
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