From bike-sharing and farmers markets to free outdoor fitness opportunities to a teen theater company focused on addiction prevention and recovery, we support a wide range of community events and activities throughout Massachusetts that engage people of all ages in healthy living experiences. Here are a few examples:
Expanding access to public bike-share programs – Our goal is to make more healthy and environmentally safe transportation options accessible to our neighbors. In keeping with that goal, in 2018 we became the lead sponsor of two independent public bike-share programs. We launched BLUEbikes in Boston, Brookline, Cambridge and Somerville, and helped drive the number of overall rides to more than 1.7 million, up 26 percent from the previous year – offsetting nearly 3 million pounds of carbon. By the end of 2019, we plan to nearly double the number of BLUEbikes available in those cities while expanding into previously underserved communities including Mattapan, Dorchester, and Roslindale. We also have expanded our existing partnership with the city of Salem to become the chief system-wide sponsor of the bike-share program, adding more bikes, stations and public racks to encourage cycling over the next three years.
Encouraging healthy eating for all ages – Throughout the year we partnered with organizations to promote nutritious, well-balanced diets among Massachusetts residents of all ages. In Chicopee, employee volunteers planted strawberries and made homemade smoothies with third-graders participating in Massachusetts Farm to School's Harvest of the Month program. Through our sponsorship of the Pittsfield Farmers Market, which sells fresh organic produce year-round, organizers were able to bring in top regional chefs to share healthy recipes and cooking tips. And in Boston our partnership with The Trustees provided our members and local seniors with the opportunity to participate in free, culturally inspired cooking classes at the Boston Public Market’s Community Kitchen.
Promoting year-round, free fitness classes – We are committed to helping people maintain an active outdoor lifestyle and believe that doing so should be fun and affordable. We have partnered with nonprofits across the state to provide free fitness opportunities, including classes at senior centers in Central Massachusetts; the City of Worcester’s Recreation Worcester after-school and summer program; the Esplanade Association’s Healthy, Fit and Fun Fitness Series; the Greenway’s Summer Fitness Series; and the city of Boston’s Summer Park Fitness Series and Social Fitness Festival. Through these programs, more than 20,000 Massachusetts residents of all ages had the opportunity to dance, cycle, lunge or stretch their way to a healthier lifestyle.
Educating youth on the effects of opioids – As part of our ongoing commitment to addressing the opioid crisis, we have partnered with Drug Story Theater, an innovative peer education program that teaches improvisational theater to teens in addiction recovery. Through the program, teens develop theatrical pieces about their journeys through addiction and recovery and perform for students to educate other young people on how addiction starts and why adolescents are especially vulnerable. Our 2018 donation of $250,000 in funding and in-kind support nearly tripled the program’s reach from 17 school districts to 49 and brought performances to more than 16,000 students.
Providing opportunities for all employees to volunteer – We support our employees in their volunteer work throughout the year, but it can be challenging for those who can’t leave the office because they serve in direct customer support roles. In 2018, we worked with our community partners to find opportunities for everyone to give back. Through 16 Blue Cross building-based volunteer projects, 1,093 employees contributed 3,219 volunteer hours in support of Cradles to Crayons, Message of Hope, Annie’s Kindness Blankets, Ascentria Care Alliance, Interfaith Social Services, People Making a Difference through Community Service, STARS and the United Way. For employees whose jobs allow them to take a day away from the office to volunteer, the high point of the year is our annual Service Day: One Community. One Blue. In September, 3,000 of our employees volunteered to support 53 service projects across the Commonwealth. With our nonprofit partners we provided critical support to community organizations focused on healthy living. Altogether, our 3800 employees volunteered 28,000 hours last year.