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Friday, Sep 14, 2018

Ballad Health Foundation and Prevention Connections to bring Project Fit America to Norton Elementary School

Two organizations are coming together to provide a local elementary school with a bolstered physical education program.

Ballad Health Foundation and Prevention Connections have partnered with Project Fit America, a national nonprofit, to provide Norton Elementary School with a grant for fitness education that includes new gym and playground equipment.

Representatives from those organizations joined Norton City Schools’ administrators, teachers and students to celebrate the launch of Project Fit on Friday, Sept. 14, with a ribbon cutting and student demonstrations of the new outdoor fitness equipment. The event followed a community-wide “Walk to School Day,” which further reinforced the importance of physical activity for students and their families.

The goal of Project Fit is for students to take personal responsibility for their health, which improves their physical well-being as well as academic performance. The program features:

  • A dynamic curriculum with games, activities and challenges that incorporates the Project Fit outdoor and indoor equipment
  • State-of-the-art fitness equipment specifically designed to address deficit areas where children tend to fail fitness tests

“In 2017, Prevention Connections partnered with Norton Elementary School in an effort to establish a sustainable solution to reduce and prevent childhood obesity in Norton,” said Ashley Timberlake, projects coordinator for Prevention Connections. “The Project Fit fitness park would not be possible without the generous grant and support of Ballad Health Foundation.”

Prevention Connections became involved with Norton Elementary after installing a walking track near the school and Norton Community Hospital, giving students, hospital visitors and team members and the community a convenience place to be active. After seeing the success of the track, Norton Elementary wanted to further bolster wellness options available to its students and completed an application for Project Fit.

To apply for Project Fit, Norton Elementary demonstrated its commitment to fitness education and the two-year curriculum. The school’s principal and physical education teacher both completed essays that outlined their enthusiasm for the project, and the school also provided information showing it had sufficient space and facility structure.

Ballad Health Foundation then awarded the money for the program, making Norton Elementary the 8th school in Southwest Virginia to receive the grant. Since 2000, the health system has made it possible for at least one regional school to launch Project Fit every year.

“At Ballad Health, we’re passionate about improving wellness in the communities we serve, and we especially want to do our part in the fight against childhood obesity,” said Mark Leonard, chief executive officer of Norton Community Hospital. “We’re thrilled to support Norton Elementary as it empowers children and their families to learn healthy habits and enjoy healthier lives. Project Fit is part of our far-reaching wellness and community health goals, which begin with developing healthy habits and active lifestyles in our children.”

Project Fit enhances children’s physical education, going beyond traditional fitness programs and gym classes with fun and intense activities that help students build social skills, character and sportsmanship. It also provides support to the schools for two years, along with on-site training for each physical education teacher.

“Quality fitness education has a direct impact not only a child’s health, but their academic success,” said Stacey Cook, executive director of Project Fit. “We are extremely proud of Ballad Health and Prevention Connections for bringing this program to the community and for their dedication to improving the health and wellness of children.”

Studies have shown physically active and health-conscious children to be more advanced in their studies and also more capable of developing leadership and teamwork skills. Beyond that, fitness education helps children learn, retain information and stay engaged in their classes.

“We are beyond excited to join forces with such passionate organizations to help improve the health and wellness of Virginia’s youth in the Norton area, and Project Fit has been a critical partner in providing a long-term solution,” Timberlake said. “We are thrilled to see the impact as Project Fit monitors the health impacts of this program, and there is no doubt Norton City youth and residents will be able to benefit from this service for years to come. Prevention Connections is honored to be part of such a phenomenal team on this city-wide initiative.”

Learn more about Project Fit America here.

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