ChildObesity180 receives $10,000 donation from Withings

Joe Maraio, left, and Rick McNulty, right, exercise in front of Faneuil Hall as part of a fundraising effort from connected health device company Withings to benefit ChildObesity180, on Friday Nov. 7 in Boston, Mass. Aynsley Floyd/AP Images for Withings

Concluding a fundraising effort called the Steps for Change challenge, health technology and device company Withings donated $10,000 yesterday to ChildObesity180, an organization located at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy that serves to facilitate research about childhood obesity prevention.

According to Withings marketing specialist Stephanie Farber (LA ’14), the company designed the donation as a challenge. Withings pledged to donate to ChildObesity180 based on the number of steps recorded on the company’s products and at a public Steps for Change event, which took place on Friday, Nov. 7 outside Faneuil Hall in Boston.

At the Nov. 7 event, which lasted from 8 a.m. to around 4 p.m., Withings provided four stepping machines for passersby to contribute to the total number of steps taken, Farber explained. She estimated that 100 people used the machine over the course of the day.

Additionally, from Nov. 2 to Nov. 8, people around the world could use their Withings activity trackers or the Withings HealthMate app to opt into counting their steps toward the challenge, according to Farber. A total of 2,758 people participated in the challenge, she said.

Withings pledged to donate up to $10,000 to ChildObesity180, with a goal of reaching 500 million steps, according to Farber.

“The idea behind the 500 million steps was to walk to the moon, which was a fun goal, but the main objective of the challenge was … to raise awareness of the issue of obesity and to inspire health,” she said. “That goal was wholeheartedly achieved … so it wasn’t a hard decision in our minds to make the donation in full.”

While the final tally reached just under 98 million steps — approximately one-fifth of Withings’ goal — Withings decided to donate the full $10,000 anyway, according to Linda Harelick, director of operations and communications at ChildObesity180.

“They didn’t quite reach their target, [but] they got close to 100 million steps, which is still pretty amazing,” she said.

Director of Sustainability for ChildObesity180 Elizabeth Nahar explained that Farber first reached out to ChildObesity180 in October with the idea of doing a fundraiser in conjunction with the second annual ObesityWeek conference, which was held in Boston this year.

“They were looking for an obesity prevention effort to support, in conjunction with Steps for Change, and because the two women who are working at Withings now are Jumbo alums, they know of ChildObesity180’s work and thought it was a worthwhile cause to support,” she said.

As a Tufts alumna, Farber said she and her colleague, Arielle Carpenter (LA ’10), admire ChildObesity180’s work and wanted to give back to an organization connected to their alma mater.

“We really love [ChildObesity180’s] mission, what they’re doing and the idea of helping kids,” she said.

Farber noted that the challenge fits with Withings’ aim to become more involved in corporate social responsibility.

“We wanted to make sure that whatever we did would really have a meaningful and lasting impact,” she added. “[Carpenter and I] thought that since ChildObesity180 is near and we both have ties there, it would be a great way to have this initiative be a kick-off to what we hope will be a longer-term partnership.”

After determining that the challenge would fit within Tufts’ policies for working with corporations, ChildObesity180 collaborated with Withings to help publicize the challenge using social media, according to Harelick. Members of ChildObesity180 also visited the Nov. 7 event to encourage support for the fundraiser and to answer questions about the organization, she said.

“We provided support with information at our work, helped to get the word out about the event through our communication channels and sent several staff to the event to participate and be present,” Nahar explained.

The Nov. 7 challenge was originally planned for the weekend before ObesityWeek in order to encourage more people to participate in the week-long challenge, according to Farber. However, Harelick said Withings decided to move the event to the Friday afterward out of respect for former Mayor of Boston Thomas Menino, who was lying in state at Faneuil Hall.

In addition to raising money for the organization, the challenge was also aimed at increasing awareness of ChildObesity180 through publicity, according to Harelick.

“It’s a great secondary goal and benefit for us,” she said.

Harelick was satisfied with the event’s success and said that ChildObesity180 is willing to conduct similar events with Withings in the future.

“We had a very good experience and some lessons learned along the way, so I think it’s something we’d be very open to in the future,” she said.