May 3, 2021



Contact: Joe Dorman, CEO – Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy

Telephone: (405) 833-1117



OICA, OK Kid Governor Discuss Children’s Health with Help from Thurman Thomas, Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell

OKLAHOMA CITY – A Pro Football Hall of Famer, Oklahoma’s lieutenant governor, Kid Governor, and an OU professor joined the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) to discuss ways to improve the health of young Oklahomans and reduce childhood obesity.

During OICA’s annual Child Advocacy Luncheon, conducted virtually on the Zoom platform, Kid Governor Charlotte Anderson of Edmond said child health and wellness is extremely important. She cited the Kids Count 2020 survey showing that Oklahoma ranks 49th in children’s health.

She said state leaders “have all the power over taking care of moms so babies are born healthy, making sure we kids can see doctors and get medicine, and keeping us safe.” She punctuated her presentation with a straightforward admonishment to all adults on the call: “I need you to work on those things” to help kids have a healthy lifestyle.

She then introduced Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell. Pinnell has made children’s health outcomes part of his agenda as the state’s second-in-command. He discussed a “Healthy Kids” campaign and that meetings were already underway. Pinnell said it was important for state government to break down walls keeping nonprofits like OICA and state agencies from easily working together.

Joe Dorman, CEO of OICA, said the organization’s “Fit Kids Coalition” worked hand-in-glove with the lieutenant governor’s vision. “Improving health outcomes for Oklahoma’s children is at the heart of our mission,” he said. “Charlotte has made it clear that this is her top priority for her year as Kid Governor working with OICA and Lieutenant Governor Pinnell is an exceptional choice to lead the state governments part of that effort through the Cabinet of Governor Kevin Stitt. All the pieces are there; now, this public/private coalition has to put them all together.”

Dr. Chan Hellman, an expert on child wellness at the University of Oklahoma shared a presentation on the power of hope in making things better – including overcoming adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), one of OICA’s top priorities.

“I’ve been involved with various studies with the state Health Department on childhood obesity,” Hellman related. “The conversation I want to have today is to begin thinking about the language and the science of hope requires as a potential overarching framework providing a common framework to begin working together on child wellness issues.

“Hope is the belief that your future will be better than today, and you have the power to make it so children have the capacity to flourish.”

“Dr. Hellman provided the science and the logic for why this issue is so important,” said Dorman.  “His research is critical for showing the data and the logic for why improving children’s health is both possible, and vital.”

Closing out the virtual luncheon was the headliner, former OSU legend and Pro Football Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas. Thomas is deeply involved with the National Football League’s “Play 60” program to help combat childhood obesity and promote wellness. During his address, he noted the difference he has seen in children when they are given an opportunity to be more active.

“My parents always stressed to me the importance of a strong and healthy body and a strong and healthy mind,” he said. “Eating healthy and staying active would not only allow me to achieve physical goals but also help me to stay mentally focused.”

Thomas also noted that even if one is not destined for athletic greatness, activity makes a positive difference in children’s lives. “We should be encouraging friends, encouraging kids, to get outside to play, run, and jump no matter what their athletic prowess may be. Even one step farther is very important that we make everyone feel welcome at activity time and playtime.”

Thomas also noted the issues of food insecurity and childhood obesity. He said sometimes kids are overweight because they do not have healthy options. Finally, Thomas noted that the pandemic has been difficult for everyone, especially children. “They need us now, advocates like all of you here. I am proud to be here on behalf of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and OICA. It doesn’t take a cape to be a hero to a kid, it just takes action.”

The 90-minute discussion is available for viewing at and people are encouraged to sign up to receive OICA’s weekly email newsletter discussing timely children’s policy issues.