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On Tuesday, Davis Elementary School in Tampa received new physical education equipment, along with a celebratory visit from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the American Heart Association, for winning the 2014-15 Buccaneers Play 60 Challenge.
"These kids, from day one, have just been absolutely amazing with their intentions to be healthy and to do their very best," said Lance Otto, physical education teacher at Davis Elementary School. "We gave them a challenge. We said, 'We want you to be as healthy as you can be, but it can't just be 30 minutes of P.E. each day. It needs to be every single day after school,' and they met the challenge. We are absolutely amazed."
This year, 21 Buccaneers Academies competed in the program to learn about the importance of daily exercise for the chance to win funds for their P.E. departments. The fifth grade students at each school logged their daily exercise in January, and the school with the highest average of minutes exercising per student was promised new equipment.
Davis Elementary School came in first place in this year's challenge, logging more than 320,000 minutes of play over a four-week span. Four additional schools – Foster Elementary School (second place), Pizzo Elementary School (third place), Miles Elementary School (fourth place), and Sulphur Springs Elementary School (fifth place) also received an equipment donation for their P.E. programs.
"When you have 850 students and you're trying to meet the individual requirements of the students and the benefit of each one of them, having the equipment to individualize the instruction is tremendous," said Otto. "So the Buccaneers, the money they have given us to purchase this equipment has allowed our P.E. curriculum to go up by leaps and bounds."
As part of the celebration, Buccaneers players Louis Murphy, Matt Patchan and Keith Tandy, along with Buccaneers Cheerleaders Cassie and Kymberli and mascot Captain Fear joined members of the American Heart Association and Hillsborough County School representatives including Superintendent MaryEllen Elia, to speak to students about the importance of physical activity and sound nutrition. For Murphy, a Bay-Area native, the message to the students was clear.
"Stay active, whether it's getting outside playing soccer, touch football, basketball, hide and seek – whatever it is," said the wide receiver. "Nowadays, video games are getting bigger and bigger, so it's very important for kids to get out in the community, exercise, and cut down on heart failure, heart disease… Staying active is the way to go."
In total, the 21 participating schools logged nearly two and a half million minutes of exercise throughout the month of January, showcasing local students' commitment to living a healthy lifestyle. The program's participants were all Buccaneers Academies – schools that aim to inspire, equip, and celebrate students through incentive-based programs and monthly challenges that provide fun, engaging, and motivating opportunities to learn. Throughout the school year, lesson plans that encourage good behavior, reading, writing, and healthy lifestyles have been implemented with each Buccaneers Academy – including a Buccaneers Fitness Zone, featuring a court cover for its outdoor recreation area. The Buccaneer-themed court covers inspire physical activity by allowing more children to play outside with less risk of sun exposure and heat exhaustion during their physical education periods.
Following the morning ceremony, the fifth grade students at Davis had the chance to participate in a P.E. class led by the Buccaneers players and cheerleaders, joining together in their commitment to living fit and active lifestyles.
The Buccaneers Play 60 Challenge is part of a national campaign created by the NFL and the American Heart Association to inspire kids to exercise for a minimum of 60 minutes a day. NFL clubs throughout the league are teaming up with area American Heart Association affiliates to tailor the campaign to their local communities. Childhood obesity rates continue to be at an all-time high, and today nearly one in three kids and teens in the United States are obese or overweight.
"This showed the students that they're a champion for caring about their health and their activity, and the community wants to recognize them for that," said Kate Sawa, executive director for the American Heart Association. "Today was really special for everyone involved."