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Rap star preaches fitness to youth at St. Albans Pk.

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Teenage girls clutched copies of the two-time Grammy winner's autobiography, "I Make My Own Rules," while others snapped photos from their cell phones.On stage, WBLS radio personality Doctor Bob Lee squeezed J's right bicep with raised eyebrows, causing the St. Alban's native to smile saying, "Yeah, I'm doing all right."Recruiting hip role-models has been only one of several tactics the event's organizer, Affinity Health Plan, has taken to draw a crowd at its annual Summer Kids Expo, which focuses on combating childhood obesity.Last year, in fact, the title was Healthy Kids Expo until the city managed care company wised up and realized youngsters probably got as excited about a day of health talk as they did about vegetables.Other attractions around the large oval park included performances by the Atlanta R&B group Casual, an inflatable obstacle course and Star-Walk playground and various activity stations with names like "That's Jumpin'," "Just Kickin' It," Dancin' Machine," and "Dunk It."According to Affinity's events planner for Queens and Staten Island, Danna Nelson, the expo was the kick-off to an initiative in which starting in September, Affinity will monitor the weight of students in five borough schools for a year.The independent not-for-profit organization will also donate sports and exercise equipment to the schools -- PS 118, 116, 147, 135 and 136 - and give trophies to those whose students show a reduction in body fat, said Nelson, who also organized the massive egg hunt over Easter at the nearby Roy Wilkins Park."This is to help change the health of kids in our communities," said Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), who has himself struggled with weight problems.Almost a quarter of elementary students in the city are obese, and 19 percent are overweight, a 2003 Health Department survey reported.Comrie's state counterpart, Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans), had the expo crowd chanting "Affinity" after he would yell, "Healthcare."But the one who really got the kids' juices flowing, was LL Cool J, when he gave them tidbits of inspirational wisdom and encouragement to stay fit and stay in school."Anything is possible," said the 33-year-old, who starred alongside actors Samuel L. Jackson and Colin Farrell in the 2003 movie, SWAT. "A lot of you have hopes and a lot of you have dreams. I'm not special. If I can do it, you can do it."Reach reporter Zach Patberg by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

Posted 7:07 pm, October 10, 2011
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