“You have to work with kids when they're young because this is when their minds are developing and they start to build values and routines,” said Sanford. “Making it fun for them changes their perspective on ‘working out’ and eating healthy foods.”
Sanford has been volunteering with the Boys and Girls Club and the Thomas Lay after school program since his freshman at the University of Georgia. He is a mentor and has built a personal relationship with many of the children. Once a week he visits one of the after school programs and teaches them about healthy eating habits and fun activities to keep them active during the day. Some of these strategies include a water challenge, which involves the children keeping a log of how much water they drink on a daily basis and offering a prize for the top students.
Sanford also teaches the children a number of physically active games such as Captain’s Coming, Capture the Flag, and Four Corners.
Moyo Jacob, a senior economics major at UGA has been volunteering alongside Darius for almost two years. She also holds a special place in heart for Athens’ youth and visits the Boys and Girls Club twice a month.
“When I first met Darius, I thought he was an actual nutritionist,” said Jacob. “He was so knowledgeable and passionate about taking care of the body. All the kids knew him by name as well; it was kind of intimidating as a new volunteer.”
Sanford has never received a prestigious award or public acknowledgement for his generous volunteer work helping Athens youth. He takes the time out of his school schedule and personal life because he knows that some children do not have anyone in their lives to teach them about nutrition and physical activities. He doesn’t do it for any other reason than his own personal platform of fighting childhood obesity in the United States.
“My mother played a huge role in my life when it came to living a healthy lifestyle and having nutritious options to eat for every meal,” said Sanford. “There’s a lot of unprivileged youth in Athens who do not have someone in their lives to guide them like my mother led me.”
Sanford also works at UGA’s Ramsey Student Center as a personal trainer. He works with students, staff and Ramsey visitors who need some extra help living a healthy lifestyle. He understands the challenges of young college students encounter while trying to get the right balance of nutrition and exercise. With students pulling all-nighters for exams, eating ramen noodles for every meal of the day, and no time to hit the gym, it is very common for students to become overweight and
malnourished. One out of four students gains 10 or more pounds in their first semester of college.
The “Freshman 15” is not a myth and it affects a large amount of college students around the nation. Sanford hopes to help students overcome the temptations that lead to the “Freshman 15” and choose healthier options in the dining halls. He also offers ways to get in mini workouts while simply transitioning to and from class.
Agriculture engineering senior Stephanie Lindo has been friends with Sanford since their sophomore year at UGA and claims he helps her avoid the temptations of eating unhealthy in college.
“Darius is always giving me tips and healthy recipes for me to cook instead of eating fast food and other processed foods,” said Lindo. “He’s such a great person and actually cares about people’s health, even those who he does not know.”
Darius hopes to continue working with the after school programs and hopes to make a serious impact in the kids’ lives. Whether volunteering in Athens, Atlanta, or out of state, after graduation he hopes that he will be able to continue volunteering with underprivileged kids and spreading healthy habits. He is hoping to take a job as a personal trainer after graduation and hopes to stay in Georgia or somewhere close.