Michelle Obama doles out hugs to Birmingham children today
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- First lady Michelle Obama was full of hugs today for Birmingham children at McAlpine Recreation Center, where she received updates on the progress the city has made since the deadly April 2011 storms.
Shortly after 3 p.m., Obama told Birmingham Mayor William Bell, Congresswoman Terri Sewell and other officials that to see the destruction was "breathtaking, to say the least.''
She went on to ask officials a series of questions, including how the storm affected children and their families and how they are recovering. She said, "it's important to shine a light on communities like this.''
Said Bell: "I'm so grateful for your presence here.''
Council President Roderick V. Royal also praised her visit, later adding: "We could not have gotten a bigger morale booster than today.''
During Obama's visit, the media was allowed to sit in on her meeting with officials, shoot video and take pictures. However, no questions were taken from the media.
After receiving updates, Obama met with children attending Camp Noah, a camp for victims of the storm. As she entered the rec center's gym, the children and volunteers gave her a standing ovation.
Wearing a sleeveless navy dress, a wide black belt and kitten-heeled black shoes, Obama bent down to the talk to each child, hugging each one, too.
"She said, 'What's up?'" said Gyasi Hill, 11, of Fairfield. "I said, 'What's up?'"
"It was a happy moment."
Devonte Harris, 12, of Forestdale, agreed, saying, "I'm just really happy right now."
"I asked her how does the White House feel. She said, 'Normal.'"
While meeting with the students, they made trail mix to coincide with Obama's push for healthy eating and living. The children and volunteers couldn't wait to give Obama, Sewell and Bell bags of the treat, which consisted of whole wheat Chex cereal, multi grain Cheerios, Goldfish, sunflower kernels, Craisins and raisins.
The children wore bright green neon T-shirts as part of UAB's Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Center's Healthy Happy Kids' program. The Healthy Happy Kids' program teaches children about smart food choices and more in order to fight childhood obesity and the health problems that come with obesity.
Dr. Mona Fouad, director of Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Center, said it was wonderful to see Obama. Fouad said she appreciated how Obama supports nutrition programs.
"She said she loves this program and she said we need to keep on with the work here in Birmingham, Fouad said. "She said, 'You made my week.' ''
After Obama's meeting at the rec center, she left in a motorcade to attend a fundraiser at the Sheraton Birmingham Hotel in downtown Birmingham.