In a scene resembling a rock concert yesterday, Buffalo Bills players jogged down and around the aisles of Kleinhans Music Hall, and were swarmed by over 2,000 screaming and excited Buffalo Public School (BPS) elementary students.
Buffalo Bills quarterback Trent Edwards, safety George Wilson, defensive end Aaron Maybin, linebackers Jon Corto and Nic Harris, and wide receiver C.J. Hawthorne joined forces with BlueCross BlueShield (BCBS) and the American Heart Association (AHA) as they officially kicked off the Play 60 Challenge program.
In addition to the Bills players, speakers at the event included Dr. James Williams, BPS superintendent, Michael Giaquinto, BCBS senior vice president and Jennifer Pratt, AHA director of marketing.
For the 5th year in a row – thousands of kids in Western New York will be engaging in 60 minutes of daily exercise through the NFL's Play 60 Challenge, sponsored by BlueCross BlueShield and nationally endorsed by the American Heart Association. It is a classroom-based program for grades 3 to 6.
Edwards, who has supported this program for all three seasons with the team, said, "Staying physically active and staying physically fit is very important at a young age. We're helping these kids realize that they need to be outside, be active and lead healthy and physical lives."
"It's a great opportunity to encourage the kids as they begin the Play 60 program over the next four weeks," said Wilson, who dedicates much of his spare time to the Buffalo Public Schools. "I tell the kids to go in with an open mind, try to learn as much as they can about living a healthy lifestyle from a physical standpoint – so they can give themselves the best chance to have a long-lasting and successful life."
The Buffalo Bills involvement is important to the program because the students look up to the players as role models and pay attention to what their heroes on the field say.
"When they (students) hear it from us, I definitely think it hammers the message home and reinforces what the parents and teachers have been trying to instill in them," added Wilson.
The players encouraged kids to stay hydrated, drink lots of water, reduce playing video games, play outside with friends, play sports, stretch, eat healthy, be positive and to be your own person and not let others influence you negatively.
The Play 60 Challenge touches thousands of students throughout Buffalo and is being expanded to suburban "all blue" schools that participate with BlueCross BlueShield. The NFL based the Play 60 Challenge on First & Fit, a program piloted by the Bills and BlueCross BlueShield.
The Play 60 Challenge kickoff also featured energetic quizmaster, Dennis George, who engaged Bills players and students in a health-themed fun and interactive setting resembling the Family Feud game show. Music was provided by the South Park High School Band.
The Play 60 Challenge was created to stem the tide of childhood obesity by using NFL players as spokesmen to encourage youth to get moving. It requires 60 minutes of physical activity everyday (30 minutes in school/30 minutes outside of school). Each classroom receives a Play 60 Challenge kit, for which students track their activity via a journal. Player trading cards are also provided as additional incentives.
While the Play 60 Challenge is offered to all Buffalo Public Schools, those attending the kickoff included 10 schools: Grover Prep (School 198), Olmsted (School 64) (School 56), Discovery (School 67), Southside (School 93), Hillery Park (School 27), Waterfront (School 95), Dr. Lydia T. Wright (School 89), Math, Science, Prep at Seneca (School 197), City Honors (School 195) and Bennett Park Montessori (School 32).
For more information on the Play 60 Challenge program, visit www.nflrush.com.