Lisa Rickel from Thornydale Elementary holds a $5000 check from the WalkOn! Challenge.

Courtesy MUSD

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona recently awarded two Marana teachers a $5,000 grant for each of their schools to fund health-related programs in Arizona. The grants were awarded based on the winners’ exceptional execution of the 2014 Walk On! Challenge.

The Walk On! Challenge is a free month-long health and fitness challenge held each year in February. It is available to schools across the state. The program has reached more than 261,000 fifth-graders since it began and aims to motivate them to incorporate healthy habits into their daily routines for a healthier lifestyle now and in the future.

 “The result of the Walk On! Challenge was I learned as much about my students and their needs as they did about basic nutrition and exercise,” said Cathy Missler, teacher at Coyote Trail Elementary in Marana. “Overall there was some improvement [among students] in exercise and the amount of sugared drinks they consumed. They really need to decrease the amount of screen time and add more fruits and vegetables to their diet.”

As part of the criteria of the grant application, teachers were asked to specify what the grant money would be used for if they won it for their school. Plans for funds include fitness stations around the school, new pedometers and heart-rate monitors, school education programs, field trips, play equipment and organized activities that encourage family participation.

In totally, five $5,000 grant recipients were awarded to:

  • Cathy Missler from Coyote Trail Elementary in Marana
  • Lisa Rickel from Thornydale Elementary in Marana
  • Ryan Buxton from Porter Elementary in Mesa
  • Ryan Eide from Kerr Elementary in Mesa
  • Tim Bergen from Lowell Elementary in Mesa

 “We are a Title I school; many of our families cannot afford a gym or participate in outside programs. We have to do our best to bring that to them! We truly want our campus to be the heart of the community, a healthy heart,” said Lisa Rickel, teacher at Thornydale Elementary in Marana.

Teachers from 212 schools participated in the Challenge reaching nearly 27,000 fifth-graders this year. Students reported eating more than 475,000 servings of fruits and vegetables and more than 121,000 hours of exercise in the month of February.

 “Arizona’s teachers are working hard to propel our state’s children to higher standards, in many cases with limited funds and resources,” said Dr. Vishu Jhaveri, chief medical officer for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona. “With the Walk On! Challenge, we provide teachers with a program that supports classroom learning while empowering children with nutrition and fitness knowledge that will last a lifetime.”

 Last year Rattlesnake Ridge, also part of Marana Unified School District, received a $5,000 grants. For more information about Walk On!, grant criteria or the 5-2-1-0 daily goal, visit www.walkonaz.com.

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