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Leoti, Kan. Junior High Finds Ways to Exercise, Wins National Health Contest

Disney Pop Star Sabrina Bryan Will Visit School

LEOTI, Kan., Feb. 23 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Leoti, Kan. has faced its share of adversity due to the economy. One challenge was that the junior high gymnasium had to be condemned because of structural problems. This left the students with no place to exercise indoors during the school day. Even so, the students at the town's junior high managed to rally support for their dedication to health and fitness. Through their effort to earn money for equipment that would provide alternate ways to be active, the students of Wichita County Junior High School in Leoti (pronounced Lee-o-tah) won the nationwide Dance for Health(TM) contest and more than $5,000 to help them continue on their path to fitness.

Dance for Health(TM) is a competition from Healthy Kids Challenge, a non-profit organization dedicated to preventing childhood obesity, sponsored by CIGNA and Mission Foods. Nationally, nearly 200 schools took part in the competition held last fall.

In addition to the monetary award, the students also earned another reward. Sabrina Bryan, a member of Disney's popular Cheetah Girls pop group, actress, and "Dancing with the Stars" contestant will visit the school on February 25 to talk with the students about how to become and stay healthy. While visiting the school, Bryan will also teach the students dance moves she created for her new fitness video. Bryan is national spokesperson for Healthy Kids Challenge.

"I can't wait to visit the kids," Bryan said. "I'm very dedicated to fighting childhood obesity. It's such a challenging problem with a critical health impact. Dance is one way to keep fit, and I'm excited to bring it to Leoti."

The community of 1,372 people(1) rallied around the students and pledged money and donated gifts for a school dance-a-thon. They raised $3,908.55 - the most of any participating school in America, plus received a contest prize package making their award over $5,000.

With the funds raised, the school will purchase active game equipment that can be used for exercise in their hallways and classrooms. Student ideas are portable soccer goals, Geofitness mats, Nintendo Wii Fit systems, Frisbees and Twister games.

"During our lunch hour and during breaks, we have had limits on what the students could do without the use of the gym. However, everyone has been able to overcome this adversity and pull together for the greater good of the school," said Lou Berning, the school's science and physical education teacher. "Despite the economic crisis the students have pulled together for wellness."

Vickie James, registered dietitian, and director of Healthy Kids Challenge, said the school exhibited creativity and a strong will to be healthy. "All of the schools that took part in Dance for Health(TM) showed a real dedication to health, and their participation brought healthy activity and wellness to the forefront. But at Wichita County Junior High, the students and the school staff managed to raise the most money."

The sponsors of the event, health service company, CIGNA and Mission Foods, congratulated the students.

"Dance is an excellent way for kids to be active, which is a key to fighting childhood obesity," said Dr. David Ferriss, CIGNA medical director for clinical programs. "CIGNA supports Healthy Kids Challenge and Healthy Kids Dance for Health(TM) as part of our efforts to encourage health and wellness, and we salute the students at Wichita County Junior High."

"Mission Foods congratulates the students of Leoti Junior High on their victory in the Dance for Health(TM) contest," said Tom Gray, senior director of marketing for Mission Foods. "This collaboration with HKC is part of Mission Foods' ongoing commitment to align itself with organizations that believe in providing healthy options for families."

Healthy Kids Challenge was founded in 1998 to raise awareness and encourage healthy changes in eating and physical activity habits in schools. HKC assistance creates solutions that help kids and families Connect Health and Needs, Get Excited (C.H.A.N.G.E.). The focus of its assistance is on positive self-esteem and healthy choices, rather than weight. With the Healthy Kids Challenge, schools and programs integrate healthy change into existing practices without burdening resources. Today hundreds of schools across the country are already taking the Challenge. Visit HKC at or Dance for Health(TM) at

CIGNA (NYSE: CI), a global health service company, is dedicated to helping people improve their health, well-being and security. CIGNA Corporation's operating subsidiaries provide an integrated suite of medical, dental, behavioral health, pharmacy and vision care benefits, as well as group life, accident and disability insurance, to approximately 47 million people throughout the United States and around the world. To learn more about CIGNA, visit

About Mission Foods

Mission Foods, headquartered in Irving (Dallas area), Texas and Gruma S.A.B. de C.V., a Mexican corporation, was founded in 1949, and is one of the largest tortilla manufacturers in the United States. Gruma S.A. de C.V. is the parent company of Mission Foods (Gruma Corporation) and is a leading Mexican producer of corn masa flour and tortilla products. It has operations in Mexico, the United States, Central and South America, Europe and Asia. Mission has been a valuable partner for moms, creating simple yet healthy recipe ideas using tortillas. For more information and recipe ideas, visit Mission Foods' at

(1) 2000 U.S. Census

SOURCE Healthy Kids Challenge
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