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Michelle Obama Back in Chicago To Launch New Fitness Initiative

By  Lizzie Schiffman Tufano and Emily Morris | February 28, 2013 7:56am | Updated on February 28, 2013 3:53pm

McCORMICK PLACE — First lady Michelle Obama was back in her hometown Thursday to announce a new initiative aimed at getting kids up and moving at 50,000 schools nationwide.

At McCormick Place, Obama and fitness organization leaders announced a national partnership focused on amping up physical activity for students both at school and outside of school.

The "Let's Move! Active Schools" network is a collaboration of Obama's "Let's Move!" campaign and other health groups. 

The energetic event brought together celebrities, executives and politicians along with thousands of students and teachers who broke out in exercise moves in the aisles.

About 6,500 Chicago Public Schools students participated from the audience as the first lady busted some of her signature moves on the stage along with celebs and a few lucky kids.

Obama was joined by celebrity athletes including Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas, former gymnast Dominque Dawes, tennis star Serena Williams and San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and legendary two-sport jock Bo Jackson.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Mayor Rahm Emanuel also participated.

The "Let's Move! Active Schools" network has a goal of reaching 50,000 schools during the next five years, Partnership for Healthier America chairman Jim Gavin said.

"Over the next few years, $22 million in grants will be made available to a variety of programs focused on getting kids moving in schools," Gavin said.

Several fitness organizations and companies will raise funds and contribute to the network. Nike alone plans to invest $50 million into the program.

"When we move, good things happen. And when we don't, they don't. It's as simple as that," Nike CEO Mark Parker said. "There must be a greater sense of urgency to address this growing epidemic."

Obama said she could trace her healthy exercise habits back to her Chicago roots. 

"During the summer, we were regulars at the Chicago Park District day camp, where the highlight of that experience was a big Olympics competition at the end of the summer where we got medals and ribbons," Obama said. "It was amazing. Back then being active was a fact of life."

The first lady was on a two-day national tour, visiting Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois to celebrate her "Let's Move!" campaign aimed at improving the health of children, which she launched in February of 2010.

"Every child I meet has the potential to contribute something amazing," Obama said. "To succeed in a job, to raise a family of their own, to give back to their community and their country. Every child has that potential. But it's up to us as the grownups in the room to help them fulfill that potential."

Duncan said one of the keys to helping Chicago students lead healthy lives is ensuring they stay safe from violence.

"We have to do everything we can do to reduce gun violence," Duncan told DNAinfo.com. "Chicago can't do that by itself. I think the city's working really, really hard, but we have to do more at the national level."

Duncan said he thought Chicago could lead the way.

"What we're talking about today [is] having kids growing up with a chance to play, to be physically active," Duncan said. "I do worry historically that the children who need these opportunities the most have been denied them. I think Chicago has a chance to break through here and really help to lead the country where we need to go, and be a model.". 

The "Let's Move!" campaign aims to fight obesity by providing families and kids with information on staying healthy.

Some Chicago schools inspired by the campaign are adding salad bars, community gardens and dance lessons to the list of student options.

The first lady's Twitter handle, @FLOTUS, along with @LetsMove, tweeted live updates from the national tour using the hashtag #LetsMoveTour.

It was Obama's second visit to her hometown this month. Weeks ago, the first lady came to Chicago to attend the funeral of Hadiya Pendleton, who was killed about a mile away from the Kenwood home of the Obama family.