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Laureus USA-Mercedes-Benz USA Initiative Keeps Los Angeles Kids Safe, Engaged and Healthy

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2013 Mercedes-Benz CLA

Laureus World Sports Academy Members Edwin Moses and Michael Johnson Visit Local Youth Sports Program to Empower Children

LOS ANGELES--June 4, 2013: Between 3-6 pm on school days, many children are vulnerable to unsafe and unhealthy activities. However, in 2012, thanks to the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation USA (Laureus USA), a charitable organization that supports projects across the U.S. to improve the lives of youth through the power of sports, in collaboration with Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA), the company and its dealers, Greater Los Angeles-Area children say they feel safer, more engaged and especially better equipped to live a healthier lifestyle. Fully invested in Los Angeles' youth, Laureus USA and MBUSA return to Los Angeles this afternoon at 2:30 p.m. PST to check in on the progress of the children impacted.

This impact is made possible with Laureus USA's support of Coach Across America (CAA), a unique national coaching and mentoring program of Up2Us. The initiative deployed 40 coaches in 10 sports-based youth development projects across L.A. that reached nearly 6,500 area youth. Laureus World Sports Academy members Dr. Edwin Moses, a two-time Olympic champion and chairman of Laureus USA, and Michael Johnson, a four-time Olympic champion and Laureus World Sports Academy Member, MBUSA representatives, as well as guests and staff will visit with CAA coaches and kids at Los Angeles' A World Fit for Kids! (WFIT) at Frank Del Olmo Elementary School for a project visit.

Laureus USA and MBUSA believe that coaches and sports play a crucial role in developing character in today's youth and keep students engaged in constructive physical activities instead of turning to the streets. A recent GAO report confirmed that despite the important role of coaches, quality coaches are in short supply.1 Proper coaching increases the chance of improved grades, better behavior, healthier lives and longer life due to fitness activity.

"Laureus USA is not about parachuting in a solution to the issues facing children in Los Angeles. We are fully invested in L.A. We want to support on-the-ground leaders within the community, often young leaders, and assist them to deliver programs and education to other young people in that community," says Dr. Moses. "That's what this national initiative is all about."

Last year's launch was part of a nationwide program, backed by $1.3 million in support from MBUSA to Laureus USA, that served as an important catalyst in this widespread initiative for the nation's underserved youth. These efforts contributed to the training and placement of 250 CAA coaches in sports-based youth development projects in underserved neighborhoods in five U.S. cities: Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Miami and New Orleans. An annual report by CAA confirmed that 56 percent of youth participating in a program run by a CAA coach reported an increase in physical activity levels. The initiative gave youth more opportunities to participate in afterschool sports programs, with the help of coaches to keep underserved children away from troubles such as youth violence, drugs and childhood obesity.

"We are a brand known for leadership which means we try to lead by example in every aspect of our business," said Steve Cannon, president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA.  "Here we're able to show what the private sector can accomplish to offset some of the deficit in afterschool funding.  We've been able to provide thousands of kids with a safer, healthier environment after the school bell rings, which for us is the greatest reward."

Children enrolled in the program say they consistently feel safer, healthier and have more self-confidence.

"If I tried playing outside by my house or a park nearby, someone would take me and my younger sister away. I wouldn't know what to do. I feel safe at this program and with my coach," said Anthony Giron, a fifth grader whose dad is a reformed gang member.

"Because the program taught me how to grow vegetables, I started my own garden of carrots and corn at home," said fourth grader Majore Paraca. "If it wasn't for this program, I would be stuck at home watching TV and eating junk food."

Over the past year, this initiative provided employment opportunities, relevant experience and scholarships in the sport for development sector for young adults in this tough economy. Many of the coaches are college graduates from the local community. The projects where CAA coaches were placed included: A World Fit for Kids!, HOLA, After-School All-Stars L.A., America SCORES L.A., Brotherhood Crusade, Kids in Sports, PLAY SOCCER Nonprofit International, Play Rugby USA and Street Soccer.

"I've seen tremendous achievement over the past year with the children and youth that this initiative supports," say Dr. James Kallusky, director of Coach Across America. "Many kids are more active and are eating better, others are taking education more seriously, and even more are making a conscious effort to stay out of trouble.  Most importantly, some of these kids are realizing a positive future that may have not been present in their lives before this initiative began.  Giving a kid a caring coach is a powerful thing."

Today's project visit emphasizes the importance of quality afterschool mentors. Children from WFIT and CAA coaches will participate in a series of activities, as well as a meet-and-greet between children and Laureus Academy members. WFIT provides afterschool programming for elementary, middle and high school students throughout the Los Angeles area in 10 schools, including Frank Del Olmo Elementary. Today's project visit proves that the stories and choices of L.A. youth are not just important -- they're invaluable.

About Laureus USA
Laureus Sport for Good Foundation USA is a registered 501(c)(3) public charity in the United States.  It is part of the Laureus Sport For Good Foundation global network, which includes the global Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, the Laureus World Sports Academy, and the Laureus World Sports Awards. Collectively, the Laureus global network harnesses the power of sport to promote social change and celebrate sporting excellence. Laureus champions the universal power of sport to bring people together as a force for good, pursuit of excellence, overcoming challenges, celebrating achievement, and winning against the odds.