Two thousand, five-hundred extremely loud and excited Buffalo area elementary school children were pumped up this morning at Kleinhans Music Hall as the Buffalo Bills introduced their sixth annual Play 60 Challenge.
Bills safety and team co-captain George Wilson said, "I had a few chill bumps like you get when you come out on game day. When you open those back doors and hear the roar of the students, it feels great. You can't help but smile."
In a partnership with BlueCross BlueShield of WNY and the American Heart Association, the Bills kicked off the health and fitness challenge for youth on September 28, 2010.
Although dignitaries such as Steve Tasker, Buffalo Bills Wall of Famer and CBS Analyst, Byron Brown, City of Buffalo Mayor, Paul A. Dyster, Niagara Falls Mayor, Dr. James Williams, Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent and Gretchen Fierle, BCBS of WNY Chief Communications Officer all had some healthy exercise and nutrition tips to share with the kids, it was the Bills players that produced the loudest cheers.
Twelve players were escorted down the aisles of Kleinhans and through the crowd by the Jills Cheerleaders and Billy Buffalo in a scene that reminded onlookers of Elvis, the Beatles or a Michael Jackson appearance. Bills players visibly enjoying the moment and slapping fives with the kids as they worked their way onto the big stage included defensive end Alex Carrington, linebacker Antonio Coleman, wide receiver Lee Evans, safety Dominique Harris, linebacker Aaron Maybin, linebacker Arthur Moats, long snapper Garrison Sanborn, safety Bryan Scott, running back C.J. Spiller, nose tackle Torell Troup, safety George Wilson and cornerback Ashton Youboty.
"We have had a great show of support in the past but nothing to this magnitude," said Wilson. "To come in today and have twelve guys represent our organization for a cause like this was just a great show of solidarity in our locker room. It shows that we have guys that not only care about playing the game, but also care about the community we play for."
Bills players spoke to the children about their favorite healthy snacks and exercise tips in a pep rally style and energized the crowd into a fun celebration of physical fitness and healthy living.
The player tips were:
Maybin #58, "Take it slow, it is O.K. to start at 30 minutes of exercise each day and work your way up to 60."
Troup #96, "Eat to win. Focus on eating and putting good food in your body."
Sanborn #65, "I liked to exercise in the water. Be creative in how you exercise."
Scott #43, "Run, play freeze tag, tv tag and red-light/green light one, two, three."
Spiller #21, "Drink a glass of water every morning and eight glasses a day."
Youboty #26, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away, and also drink lots of water."
Carrington #92, "Jump on a trampoline and know the benefits of working out. Have an active lifestyle."
Coleman #59, "Drink milk. It has lots of calcium and is gives you strong bones."
Moats #52, "I like rollerblading and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. When you're bored, go play!"
Evans #83, "I love sledding in the winter. Also, eat breakfast – it helps give you energy and can carry you all day. Stay active and have fun!"
Wilson #37, "What you do right now, will affect you the rest of your lives."
"This was a great platform for us to bring more awareness to healthy living and to show these students that they have control over their destiny from a health stand point," Wilson added. "We came out to encourage these kids to have a great time while they exercise, stay in shape and give them a few health tips to try and take them away from the candy and the high sugar foods."
After the players spoke, Dennis George performed a health-themed quiz show that included students and players pitted against each other. Lee Evans shared the highly competitive and entertaining event with his nearly two year-old son.
"I think he really enjoyed it," said Evans. "Seeing all of the people and being around for a great cause was great for both of us," said Evans. " He really keeps me busy and helps me stay active every day...he's my Play 60."
BlueCross BlueShield and the American Heart Association partner with the Buffalo Bills to offer the Play 60 Challenge locally. The Play 60 Challenge is a youth fitness program designed to encourage children to exercise for 60 minutes a day (30 in school and 30 at home). It's a school based program offered to students in grades 3-6.
"The program provides materials that teachers may use as tools and incentives to encourage physical activity," said Gretchen Geitter, Bills vice president of community relations. "Some of the incentives include player fitness themed trading cards, a chance for a classroom to come to the Fieldhouse for a fitness celebration and game tickets. Some students and teachers that complete the challenge will have the chance to be on the field before the last home game. It's all designed to encourage kids to be healthy, active and fit which is not only a Buffalo Bills initiative but an NFL initiative."
For more information on the Play 60 Challenge visit www.nflrush.com.