Grants promote kid fitness

Two Marietta elementary schools have the opportunity to enhance their physical education classes after receiving $500 grants from McDonald’s Owners/Operators of the Tri-State.

The network of 94 McDonald’s restaurants that stretch north to Caldwell and south to Gilbert, W.Va., have chosen 25 area schools to award with its Balanced, Active Lifestyles grants that the organization started several years ago.

Harmar and Washington elementary schools, both sharing physical education teacher Amber Carter, each have $500 to use for programs, equipment or projects that help build the schools’ physical education curriculum.

“I want to encourage them to do things at home as well as in class and get their families involved,” Carter said. “A lot of people know that they need to be active and do activities at home, but a lot don’t know how they can always make that work, especially when you’re busy.”

To accomplish that goal, Carter will be using the grants to apply to the grades she teaches- kindergarten through fifth at Harmar, and kindergarten, fourth and fifth grade at Washington-for take-home physical fitness challenges.

“It’s a take-home package that includes a different component each month, whether it’s cardiovascular-related exercise or strength training-just to work on staying active,” Carter said.

The take-home packets are put together by Carter, but the money from the grants will go toward extra equipment needed for the fitness challenges as well as prizes given out at the end of each challenge month.

“I’m hoping we can carry this into next year and set up a ‘mom and me’ and ‘dad and me’ program so parents can spend that time doing activities as events or at home,” Carter said.

Carter is only in her first year teaching physical education, splitting time between Harmar and Washington with one other physical education teacher, but she said she plans to continue to apply for these grants as long as she qualifies.

Applications for McDonald’s grants come around every fall, so schools have the chance to receive them on an annual basis if selected.

“We work to promote balanced and healthy lifestyles, and I always tell kids you can eat healthy at McDonald’s,” said Laurie Strahler, owner of local McDonald’s and a member of the Marietta Board of Health. “There’s a tag put on us that McDonald’s is the cause of childhood obesity that we’re trying to dispel.”

Strahler presented the plaques and checks to Carter and the schools earlier in March, and has passed out yogurt parfait coupons to students to teach them about healthier options.

Even though Strahler does not serve on the committee that selects grant recipients, she said she was impressed after looking at Carter’s programs.

“She’s doing a fantastic job getting them involved and keeping them interested in fitness, and when I told them I was giving them $500 to start up these programs to keep those lifestyles healthy, they were so excited,” she said.

Emily Duke, seniors communications specialist for Moroch, a Parkersburg-based firm representing McDonald’s, said the owners and operators of McDonald’s in the Tri-State area saw a special need to direct grants toward health and fitness in schools.

“Over the course of the years McDonald’s has worked with schools as partners in education and we have learned over the years that schools are losing funding for physical education and health,” Duke said. “If cuts are made, those are the first to go, so schools have been asking for those kinds of programs more than they used to.”

Applications for the grants are sent out to every school, public or private, in the Tri-State and are targeted toward education for fifth through eighth grade, though schools are allowed to use their grants to benefit all ages.