Rising to the Find Your Balance Challenge

by Together Counts Partner | June 29, 2012 at 3:08 pm | comments

One of the greatest benefits of working at the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation is seeing our programs make a real difference in the lives of children. Just this spring we announced the winners of our three sweepstakes competitions, and with the support of our partners, we gave away thousands of dollars worth of sporting equipment, playgrounds and grants.

Our Find Your Balance Challenge competition, however, was more than just a raffle. Schools put together applications based on real changes they were enacting at school. This year’s winner, Myrtle Beach Intermediate School, really stood out from the crowd. An entirely student-led project, their application showed creativity, dedication and a real sense of urgency regarding the issues of nutrition and childhood obesity.

As part of their prize, Myrtle Beach Intermediate Schools received an Energy Balance Party. Our team traveled to South Carolina for a day of fun-filled energy balance activities. And what a day it was! Myrtle Beach Intermediate School is all 4th and 5th graders, and there are nearly 700 of them! We started the day with an assembly, led by our partners at Discovery Education, and gave the students three food tips:

  1. Try a new food item at least 20 times before deciding whether you like it or not
  2. Eat the colors of the rainbow
  3. Roll a die every day and whatever number comes up, commit to eating that number of fruits or vegetables a day

This had to be one of our best events. The school was fantastic, especially Dana the principal. We all loved her and enthusiasm for the kids. If we didn’t have the school’s  complete support, the event would not have been as successful. Coach K was awesome with the logistics and set up, we had great volunteers and the teachers were terrific in managing an entire school of 4th and 5th graders – almost 700 of them. They were SO well behaved!

Tropical Storm Beryl threatened to dampen everything, and we planned for a rain day. Forecast was for two to five inches of heavy rain and winds on Wednesday with possible flooding. An early departure on Tuesday and the long day left us very tired, and the storm still kept me from sleeping too soundly. At 6:15 AM, we met in the hotel’s coffee bar, but the lounge was dark.  This was worse than the tropical storm rain out. NO COFFEE?? And a quick search on the iPhone Starbucks app showed no open Starbucks in the area. A disaster of almost biblical proportions. Our group of coffee addicts almost had a meltdown, but luckily a 24-hr Dunkin Donuts was nearby. Whew. OK, now we can face 700 elementary students.

The general assembly went off great. Kyle from Discovery is an EXCELLENT host/moderator. Ellen talked about her three food tips. Then my turn. I explained that I was from Washington, DC and when I asked if anyone knew where that was, half the auditorium raised their hands. They had just completed a trip to DC so as we talked about the monuments – I made a good connection with them. You should have seen the kids’ faces when they saw their classmates coming up to get their certificates and then leading the procession out of the auditorium with their olympic torches. Kyle swears they were thinking that that could have been them.

The three stations we set up worked well to rotate all the kids: basketball, obstacle course and long jumps. Every 45 min, almost 100 kids would come in and rotate between the stations. The Discovery Education team and volunteers were absolutely exhausted by the end of the day. Wow – it takes so much energy to keep up with these kids. I don’t know how teachers do it full-time.

I spent most of my time handing out lunches to the various classes that were not at the games and that’s when you realize how big the school is. For each 45 min. time block, we visited three class rooms. Again, the teachers and kids were awesome. I didn’t expect that kids would have such strong preferences for green apples (mostly) over red, and it was a little like the lottery when they’d open their lunch bag and discover (or not) that they had the color apple they wanted. There was often some trading going on. Ellen used the apples to remind kids about one of her food tips: eat the colors of the rainbow. Some kids ate their apples right away but NO ONE complained or didn’t like apples. They were all thrilled to get the bag, the apple, puzzle, ribbon and button. My favorite part was going into the classroom who had just gotten their yearbooks and both Ellen and I were asked to sign the kids’ yearbooks. I felt very popular.

I walked all over the school, which was very diverse, but what really impressed me was the decor and activities and clubs that the kids have opportunities to participate in. I got to see the original “job application” that Dana the principal had posted to recruit students for the FYBC team.

There was a three-way tie between the 4th grade class winners, and one clear class winner for 5th graders. Dana and Kyle made the announcement over the PA at the end of the day. Two news crews also came to the event at different times: ABC and CBS and both the principal and I did brief interviews.

What is your greatest challenge to attain energy balance?

Susan Ralston wrote this post for Together Counts on behalf of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation.