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Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Schools Partner to Get Kids More Active

Grants to 14 schools brings total of school districts receiving grants to


DETROIT, Oct. 26 /PRNewswire/ -- For the fourth consecutive year, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and its affiliated HMO Blue Care Network are helping schools across the state launch activities to help Michigan children become more physically active and healthier.

The company is partnering with 14 Michigan schools so they can provide essential activities to promote physical activity, including the renovation or creation of neighborhood walking paths, purchase of much-needed exercise equipment, and the addition of outdoor equipment such as climbing walls and playground stations.

The program is expected to directly reach more than 8,200 students, plus thousands more future students and residents in local communities. Since 2004, Building Healthy Communities grants have gone to schools in 52 school districts across Michigan to promote physical activity and good nutrition among more than 68,000 school children.

"Helping improve the health status of Michigan's children is a plank in our comprehensive effort to improve the health of all state residents," said Lynda Rossi, Blues vice president of public policy and social mission. "We do that in several ways, including our commitment to the state's MIChild program, which provides health coverage to eligible children, and through grant programs like this that encourage young people to stay fit and active and help prevent more serious health conditions down the road."

"It is absolutely essential that young people receive encouragement to follow healthy lifestyles so we can reverse the trend we are seeing in childhood obesity and the early development of diseases such as diabetes," Rossi said. "We want to lower their risk for heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke."

Michigan Surgeon General Kimberlydawn Wisdom, M.D., said, "To effectively improve the health of Michigan residents young and old alike, we must address three levels of change - individual behavior, policy and environmental."

"The Blues' Building Healthy Communities grant program provides a great opportunity for schools to improve their built environments and create new options for much-needed physical activity among our children and youth," Wisdom said. "Programs such as this hold an important key to reducing these risks for children in their everyday lives at school and in their neighborhoods."

Schools will have their new wellness and exercise facilities in place by the end of 2008, with some completed this year. Today's announcement of more than $133,000 in grants brings the Blues' commitment to helping Michigan schools promote wellness and exercise activities to nearly $630,000.

The schools receiving grants and their amounts are:

Southeast Michigan

-- Detroit - Launch a program at Carstens Elementary School to get all of the school's 400 kindergarteners through fifth-graders up and active in a daily end-of-day exercise program that will also promote healthy snack alternatives. Grant amount: $10,000.

-- Detroit - Enable Harding Elementary School to offer a highly popular video computer program called Dance Dance Revolution which will get the school's 378 students in kindergarten through fifth-grade to do aerobic exercises to the beat of popular songs. Grant amount: $4,578.

-- Detroit - Introduce a safe walking and bicycling safety program to the 590 kindergarten through fifth-grade students of Harms Elementary School to promote walking and bicycling as exercise. The centerpiece is a computerized bicycle safety program. Students will get exercise while pedaling bicycle simulators powering video monitors to teach them how to ride safely. They also will learn about bicycle maintenance and the health benefits of cycling. Students also will be introduced to the concept of the "pedestrian school bus," which encourages kids to walk to school as a team to exercise and reduce air pollution. Grant amount: $10,000.

-- Detroit - Construct two climbing walls - one 40 feet long and 8 feet high outdoors, and another 8 feet long in the gym of Maybury Elementary School - for use by the school's 630 students in kindergarten through fifth-grade, and implement a nutrition information program. Grant amount: $10,000.

-- Detroit - Renovate the playground for the 480 kindergarten through fifth-grade students at Trix Elementary/Middle School with help from the University of Michigan Taubman School of Architecture and Urban Planning. Sixteen Detroit Public Schools students interested in an architecture career from seven high schools will help design the playground and some of its structures through U-M's Detroit Community Design Center. Grant amount: $10,000.


-- Lansing - Construct the final 160 feet of a one-quarter mile public walking path around Gier Park Elementary School. The school also is purchasing body mass analyzers, 500 pedometers and walking logs for its "No Steps Left Uncounted" program enlisting students, staff and families to walk 10,000 steps per day. Grant amount: $10,000.

-- Lansing - Enable Lewton Elementary School to build a one-quarter mile walking path and an asphalt activity area, purchase soccer goal posts and gym wall mats, and teach the school's 299 students in kindergarten though fifth- grade about healthy nutrition. Grant amount: $10,000.

-- Lansing - For the first time since it was converted from an elementary school to a middle school and then back again, Vivian Riddle Elementary School will have playground equipment designed for the school's 297 students in kindergarten through fifth-grade, thanks to its grant. Grant amount: $10,000.

-- Saginaw - Heavenrich School's grant will introduce jumping rope, an exercise regimen which is gaining new popularity, into gym classes for 100 of the school's students. The school also plans to form a jump rope club for students in grades two through five. Grant amount: $9,072.

-- Vandercook Lake - Renovate a one-eighth mile walking track behind Townsend School used by the school's 600 students in kindergarten through fifth-grade and by the community. Grant amount: $10,000.

-- Vandercook Lake - Help build a fitness facility at Vandercook Lake High/Middle School. When combined with other funding, the project will remodel a school warehouse into a facility containing exercise machines and free weights for its 715 students. Grant amount: $10,000.

West Michigan

-- Grand Rapids - Install an indoor climbing wall for the Buchanan Elementary School's 509 students in kindergarten through fifth-grade. The design will enable students to traverse the wall horizontally rather than vertically. The grant also will purchase 40 pedometers for gym classes and the walking club. Grant amount: $10,000.

-- Grand Rapids - Install an outdoor climbing boulder on the playground of C.A. Frost Environmental Science Academy. The school also will purchase 100 pedometers for its 515 students in kindergarten though eighth-grade to measure daily activity levels. Grant amount: $9,994.

-- Howard City - Construct an indoor climbing wall and purchase safety equipment and floor mats for Edgerton Upper Elementary School, along with helping fund a portion of a one-third mile asphalt walking track to be built in spring 2008. Grant amount: $9,520.

Previous Building Healthy Communities grants have made real differences in schools and communities, said Rossi. A previous grant to Grand Rapids Public Schools expanded the Healthy U after-school program to six elementary schools in economically disadvantaged areas, creating in-school "mini-marts" that allowed more than 400 families to regularly purchase fresh fruits and vegetables. Other previous grants funded a portion of a walking track featuring five exercise stations between two Alma schools that opened this July, and helped construct a greenhouse at Lansing's North Elementary School that grew produce for the Lansing food bank.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit organization, provides and administers health benefits to more than 4.6 million members residing in Michigan in addition to members of Michigan-headquartered groups who reside outside the state. The company offers a broad variety of plans including: Traditional Blue Cross Blue Shield; Blue Preferred, Community Blue and Healthy Blue Incentives PPOs; Blue Care Network HMO; BCN Healthy Blue Living; Flexible Blue plans compatible with health savings accounts; Medicare Advantage; Part D Prescription Drug plans, and MyBlue products in the under-age-65 individual market. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network are nonprofit corporations and independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. For more company information, visit

SOURCE Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
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