If elected President of the United States you could expect that Wilton resident Emily Smith, 12, would help get the community active in order to help it feel better in its mind and emotions.
That’s why Emily, a 7th grader at Unquowa School in Fairfield, organized Saturday’s (Sept. 9) Get Moving Festival, which sought to teach and encourage people to participate in physical activities in order to improve their mental health.
“Today is about making people more aware of how physical movement helps people boost their self-esteem (and) confidence through physical health,” she said.
This spring Emily was elected “Ms President US” for Wilton after she and her four-member cabinet created the idea of the festival. Ms President US, the Ridgefield-based nonprofit that serves to empower girls through activities and community involvement, holds a competition election each year.
“Ms President is a program for girls who’d like to be more involved in their community,” Emily said, noting that, with her election, came the promise to follow through with her pledge to create this festival.
About two dozen businesses and organizations took part in the event held at Trackside Teen Center, which donated the space for free.
“Supporting youth is at the heart of what we do,” Trackside Executive Director Lori Fields said.
“Trackside as an organization is a huge supporter of the wonderful initiatives that are put on by our youth in this town and we believe whole-heartedly in the correlation between physical health and mental health,” Fields said.
Along with music and dance entertainment, the festival featured a myriad of physical activities for participants to try, including martial arts, rowing, dance moves and more. Attendees earned raffle tickets to try for prizes as they completed a checklist of activities at different stations.
“I wanted to get involved in my community and the program sounded really fun and interesting,” said Alexa Marr, 13, of Wilton, who served as Smith’s chief of staff, alongside Ellie Holtz, 13, vice president; Avery Holtz, 10, secretary; and Harper Smith, 7, Emily’s creative director.
Emily’s mother, Alison Smith, who volunteers with Ms President US, said organizing the festival was more involved than the girls had previously imagined, but she noted that they stepped up.
“I have been overwhelmed by the support of the community,” she said, making special note of the Working Moms of Wilton group on Facebook, Trackside, and of course her daughter.
“Her campaign was on the idea that being engaged in play actively increases endorphins and improves mental health,” she said.
Alexa’s mother, Kacey Marr, who volunteered at the festival, also praised the work of the girls and the project they executed.
“I think that it’s a great opportunity for them to show leadership in their community and come out of their comfort zone,” she said.