Exuberant Farms Intermediate School students warmly greeted Roary as the furry, cuddly mascot of the Detroit Lions had arrived to cheer their achievement.
Friday's visit was a reward for the school’s participation in the PLAY60 program sponsored by the American Heart Association and the Detroit Lions and punctuated a day of activities to celebrate the program.
The students of Farms were challenged to get active for 60 minutes a day throughout the month of April in a three-school competition. Logging their “active” minutes in journals, Farms students competed in the hopes of winning the grand prize of a $1,000.
“I was so impressed with how many hours we logged as a school and I thought for sure there was no way anyone was going to beat us,” said Farms principal Mikki Cheney.
Although the school came in a close second, Cheney is already ready to have her school participate in the challenge again next year.
“I just felt like they (students) took it very seriously,” she said. “But they made it fun for themselves. So I think it taught them a lot, that you can exercise and still have fun.”
Day of celebration
In recognition of their efforts, teachers and parents made having fun a priority on Friday as students were given time out of their normal school day to get out and get active. Led by 20 members of the Hartland High School football team, the fifth and sixth graders were treated to energentic games of flag football.
“These kids are just eating up these high school boys,” physical education teacher Kay Fountain said. “It’s just the best. It’s so cool. They’re all having fun. This is the first time we’ve ever done this and we really weren’t sure how it was going to go, but it’s been phenomenal.”
More than 60 parents also came out to volunteer their time, as well and help coach the kids during the games and many agreed that having the role models of the high school football team helped to motivate and excite the younger kids.
"They're terrific," parent volunteer Tony Payne. "They're extremely helpful and really into it. They're right in there, helping with plays. Plus they get out of school."
Hartland football coach Marcus Dukes said said the event is for a great cause.
“They asked already if they could do it every Friday," Dukes said. “They’re having a great time and obviously the fifth and sixth graders are having a great time so it’s a good cause all the way around."
Organized by parent, Cindie DeWolf, a mom to a Farms fifth-grader, but who also works for the American Heart Association, brought the program first to the Detroit Lions and then to Cheney’s attention.
“I talked to Mikki (Cheney) and they were all on board,” said DeWolf. “And they were actually looking to do something like this, so it was a perfect fit.”
Targeting fifth and sixth graders was on purpose as well, DeWolf adds since according to the American Heart Association this age group is the most at risk.
“These are the ones we’re starting to lose they’re attention as far as nutrition and activity,” DeWolf said. “If they’re in sports, that’s great, but if they’re not, they’re going home and watching TV. Childhood obesity is an epidemic in this country, and I know my own child likes to come home and have a snack and sit in front of the TV and I have to motivate her.”
Fountain agrees and says that she was able to use the PLAY60 program to stress to her students that physical activity is something to strive for throughout your whole life and to start making those types of healthy choices now.
“I remember saying to the class, you want to get 60 minutes of exercise in a day. And that’s not just now, that’s a lifetime,” Fountain said. “You need a lifetime of health and activity and exercises.”
Over the course of the month, many students came to learn this lesson and more after realizing how hard it is to stay active.
“I think that was a big eye-opener for a lot of parents too,” DeWolf said. “I heard from a lot of parents,‘Wow, I didn’t realize that it was so hard to get 60 minutes of exercise a day, I didn’t realize my kids weren’t active.’”
Used as a fundraiser as well, Farms Intermediate was able to raise $4,000 for the American Heart Association, which according to some was a nice change from the typical fundraisers held in schools.
“It gets away a little bit from catalogue fundraisers,” said parent Renay MacLean. “And it gets them more actively involved with their peers, their family.”