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Published on December 2nd, 2014 | by Millennium Magazine Staff


Carolina Panthers hold ‘Fuel Up to PLAY 60’ pep rally at District Five school

Pictured Carolina Panthers Outside linebacker Thomas Davis (#58), kicker Graham Gano (#9) and Sir Purr served as group leaders for students and staff participating in high-energy, interactive games.

COLUMBIA – Students and staff at one Lexington-Richland District Five school got a surprise visit from NFL players and staff on Dec 2, as part of an initiative to encourage healthy eating and regular exercise.

The Carolina Panthers and the Southeast Dairy Association teamed up to host a Fuel Up to PLAY 60 pep rally for over 600 students at Leaphart Elementary School. Carolina Panthers Outside linebacker Thomas Davis (#58) and kicker Graham Gano (#9) also presented District Five with a $10,000 NFL PLAY 60 grant for health and wellness programming on behalf of the NFL, the Panthers and the Southeast Dairy Association. Leaphart Elementary and Nursery Road Elementary will each receive $5,000 to implement healthy eating and physical activity programs.

“We are so proud and honored to have been selected for the Fuel Up to PLAY 60 initiative by the Panthers,” said District Five Student Nutrition Director Todd Bedenbaugh. “As a school district, we’ve implemented a number of initiatives to promote nutrition and exercise, and the event today advances our efforts in a way that only a visit by the Panthers can do. We are so grateful… The students will remember this event and the message behind it for a long time to come.”

Dottie Ryan, Manager of School Programs for the Southeast Dairy Association, said: “We know that healthy students are better students. So for students who eat a healthy breakfast and lunch; research shows these are the kids that excel, and the Fuel Up to PLAY 60 event is helping to make that happen.”

During the visit, Panthers players, staff and team mascot Sir Purr served as group leaders for students and staff participating in high-energy, interactive games that promoted physical fitness and healthy lifestyle habits through proper nutrition.

Cheering on the teachers and students during a dance contest and relay race was Davis, who says he encourages students to be active whenever he gets an opportunity.

“If we can be able, as NFL players, to come out here and show them or teach them the right things day in and day out, then that’s what we want to do,” Davis said. “We didn’t have anything like this when I was in school…not at all. I think that this is a great event that the NFL puts on, and I’m excited to be a part of it.”

Gano led his group through a jeopardy-style game. He said he hopes that the students will continue to incorporate physical activity into their daily routines.

“I hope that my own boys and the students here will see that physical activity and nutrition is important. It’s something I hope they will remember long after we leave,” Gano said.

Launched by the National Dairy Council and the National Football League, Fuel Up to PLAY 60 is one of the nation’s largest in-school wellness and physical activity program. More than 74,000 schools nationwide, with more than 11.5 million students participate in the program, which encourages students to make a difference in their school environment by consuming nutrient-rich foods (low-fat and fat-free dairy, fruits, vegetables and whole grains) and getting active for at least 60 minutes a day.

NFL officials say The Fuel Up to PLAY 60 Hometown Grants are awarded to one school district in each of the 32 NFL markets. Winning districts receive a $10,000 NFL Fuel Up to PLAY 60 Hometown grant to support health and wellness programming or equipment and a visit from NFL players.

For Leaphart Elementary School students like Malik Workman, the visit by the Panthers won’t soon be forgotten.

“When I get home, I’m going to tell my parents that we had a pep rally with the Panthers,” Workman said after the event. “It was a lot of fun, and I will remember it for a long time.”

Principals Kelly Brown and Love Ligons said their schools will use the grants to bolster current initiatives. The pep rally is a great way to get the students excited about new and existing programs, they said.

“It means a lot to them…It means a lot to our schools,” said Brown, principal of Leaphart Elementary. “To be so close to NFL players and be encouraged by them will make a huge impact. It was just a wonderful day for our students.”

Ligons, principal of Nursery Road Elementary, added: “I think it will serve as a motivator for our students like never before. Not only did they get an opportunity to hear about fitness, but they got a chance to see it. Anytime they think about not being active or eating something that may not be so healthy, they are going to remember today and remember to Play 60.”



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