proj-fit-amerMADISONVILLE, Ky. (8/21/14) — Three local elementary schools have been awarded grants from Baptist Health Madisonville to launch Project Fit America, a fitness program aimed at reducing childhood obesity and increasing physical activity for all levels of students.

Longest Elementary School in Greenville, Sinking Fork Elementary in Hopkinsville and West Broadway Elementary School in Madisonville have each been awarded a $16,500 grant from Baptist Health for indoor and outdoor fitness equipment, teacher training and curriculum materials.

In-service events were held this week at each school to provide training for the physical education teachers that will be responsible for the program at each location, and the outdoor playground equipment is currently being installed. Formal Kick-off events will be held in late September and early October at each facility.

Longest Elementary School Physical Education teacher Anne Heltsley said the school is excited to partner with Baptist Health and Project Fit America.

"The Project Fit America program is going to be the best asset for overall health and wellness that our school has ever experienced. On the initial training day, we have already witnessed incredible results. Our students are excited about the certificates and the rewards that the program offers. Many students have already set very high individual goals that they hope to achieve for themselves," Heltsley stated. "My students participated in cross-curricular games that helped them use teamwork, communication and cooperation in every activity. They integrated science, reading and math into being physically active and having fun."

Mike Baumgartner, Baptist Health Madisonville president, believes the program exemplifies Baptist Health's focus on health and wellness at a time when obesity and its related conditions, such as diabetes, are among Kentucky's greatest health risks.

"Project Fit America is a wonderful partnership with our schools to help these students formulate healthy habits now that will carry over into a healthy adulthood," Baumgartner said. "Seeing this program in person, and the fun that the students were having gave me great hope that this program is going to make a difference now and into the future. Every child is engaged, no matter what their physical abilities have been, and will experience tremendous pride and growth through this program that will benefit the entire community."

West Broadway Physical Education teacher Melanie Duff said her students were loving the new program. "It is amazing to watch Project Fit America in action. My kids do not even realize how much they are exercising, because they are busy having so much fun together."

Similar sentiments are being echoed at Sinking Fork Elementary School according to Physical Education teacher Rusty Goble. "The staff and students of Sinking Fork are so excited for this rare opportunity to enhance all of our student's wellness. To me, physical education is one of the most important classes a student will ever be a part of," Goble stated. "No matter what you want to choose as a profession, if you are not healthy you are not happy. Receiving this grant from Baptist Health and Project Fit America will help Sinking Fork have the best program and equipment in our district."

For Baptist Health the goal is that lives will be changed, new habits will be created, and our communities will be engaged in these types of healthy programs that can change the look of healthcare for Kentucky in the future.

Baptist Health Madisonville is part of the Baptist Health family of hospitals and physicians, one of the largest not-for-profit healthcare systems in Kentucky. Baptist Health Madisonville proudly serves western Kentucky residents with eight locations to meet the needs of Kentuckians close to home. As an integrated health provider, it includes 100 primary care and specialist physicians, a 410-bed hospital with a state-of-the-art 20-bed Critical Care Unit and 10-bed Observation Unit, an Education and Research Division with a Family Medicine Residency, award-winning Women's Health, advanced Cancer Care and a progressive Heart & Vascular Center. Guided by a values-based culture to deliver clinical and service excellence consistently, Baptist Health Madisonville strives for excellent care, every time.

Project Fit American is a national nonprofit organization that creates sustainable and innovative broad based fitness programs in schools. PFA programming includes state-of-the-art outdoor fitness equipment specifically designed to address the deficit areas where children fail fitness tests; indoor fitness equipment; a dynamic curriculum with games, activities and challenges; on-site teacher training and in-class instruction on subjects such as smoking intervention, nutrition and understanding your body. PFA is in its 24th year of working with schools in nearly 900 schools in over 300 cities in 45 states. Schools report increased motivation, participation and physical improvements in their students, along with parents and faculty becoming more involved in choosing fitness activities over sedentary lifestyle habits.

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