Gratitude Roll Call!

2015 rings in Project Fit America’s 25-year anniversary. I look back and marvel at the leap of faith I took when I was 28 years old with no formal education beyond high school and a series of sales jobs that ultimately lead to the epiphany of starting this charity. I knew this was a calling that would be my life long passion. For 25 years, I have worked with all my gusto, mojo, faith and passion each and everyday. I am and always will be a woman on a mission.

The single greatest joy of this work is the people. Raising over $13,000,000.00 and seeing our charitable mission made real for over a half million kids (and counting) across this great nation! My deepest gratitude and daily inspiration comes from many. Without each of you none of this would be possible. A gratitude roll call to:

✭ Those that work beside me everyday
✭ Our PFA Trainers and Mentor Teachers in field, and their families, that support their work that takes them all across the country
✭ Every Principal, PE Teacher, Parent and PTO
✭ Our beloved Sponsors and their support teams that make this all happen
✭ The vibrant online community of people from all walks of life who share the passion for fit and healthy lifestyles
✭ Our amazing online donors that help provide for schools across the country.
✭ Our social media “ambassadors ” who champion our message and go above and beyond our expectations because of their deep personal passion to making a difference.

This milestone is ours to celebrate because of you. I am putting out the call to all of you to please share with us how Project Fit America has impacted you. Each of you has a story to share, be it personal, professional, or both!

In closing, I am blessed that I get the chance everyday of my life… to seek, find, explore, promote and engage people who care so deeply, walk the walk and talk the talk…you are the REAL deal and my inspiration. You always have been and always will be.

With gratitude and thanks to all! Cheers to the next 25! -Stacey

Posted in 25 year anniversary, BLOGS, Fitness Charity for kids, fitness inspiration, Getting Kids Fit, gratitude, Hospitals for wellness advocacy, kids who inspire, making a difference, people who inspire, raising money, woman on a mission | 1 Comment

Motivated to Move! A Sponsor’s personal story

Guest Blog by: Laura Bollan/Director, Healthy Communities-Sarah Bush Lincoln Health System, Matoon, IL

Back in February, I took on the role as “Director of Healthy Communities.”  I had so much to learn about our programs:  Healthy Kids, Body Electric and SBL Dental Services.  We are all about health and fitness, and I was neither.  We started “Fit Girls” in the summer, a nationally known fitness program for girls that uniquely combines training for a 5k (3.2 mile) race with reading and nutrition education. The Fit Girls program is available to girls who will have completed 3rd, 4th or 5th grade.  This was my chance to work with the girls and get fit at the same time.  I have let myself down in the past, but I knew I wouldn’t let the girls down!  So, I started running in the mornings.  I downloaded the C25K app on my phone and off I went.  I was slow, but I kept thinking about finishing that 5K with the Fit Girls.  Race day came and we ALL finished the race!  As each new Fit Girl crossed the finish line, the others were there cheering them on!

Soon after that, I learned about our work with Project Fit America (PFA) and all the great programs they had helped us get started in the schools we serve.  This program provides schools with outdoor and indoor fitness equipment, curriculum and onsite training with the teacher to make a difference in the lives of their students.  I attended the first day of training for Coach Kappy.  Our PFA Trainer was Ken Chambless, from Newnan, GA and he was on fire! It was contagious!  I helped put together the 3 1/2 pound weighted sports hoops that are part of PFA program and participated in all the indoor games and was so excited for Lake Crest Elementary School!  When Ken asked for an adult to join in the hooping contest, I jumped in.  I only lasted about 5 or 6 rotations and the hoop ended up at my ankles, but I was hooked!  I watched the kids get so excited that I had even tried!  I didn’t want to let them down.  Motivated, when I got home I ordered myself a sports hoop just like the students were using.  I had a few weeks until the official PFA Kickoff Event and I wanted to participate in the hooping challenge on day of our event! I was so excited when the hoop arrived.  I put it together in the office and the staff and I all took turns trying it out.  They were just as excited as I was.

I took it home and started practicing.  The instructions say to take it easy when you start, so I tried to only do 2-3 minutes the first few days.  I was really awkward in the beginning, but soon the rhythm came.  By the time of the kickoff event, I was doing 1200 rotations in the morning and 1200 at night (that’s 100 per minute).  At the kickoff event they paired me with a young girl who made it look like there was no effort at all to move this weighted hoop, but I didn’t give up.  The principal finally had to call it a tie because neither of us would give in.  It was so much fun!

Meanwhile, back at the office we had started a “90 day challenge” to get fit.  #trimbyturkeyday.  We were to eat less carbs, no sweets, exercise daily, and drink water.  At about 60 days we were starting to lose our motivation, so I proclaimed that whoever “won” the contest would win a Project Fit sports hoop.  Everyone was thrilled!  We are now racing to the finish to see who wins the new sports hoop!

Exercise is fun and motivating!  I feel better than I’ve felt in years and although I hadn’t noticed my body really “change”; I had a fancy dinner to attend and a dress that I couldn’t even zip six months ago fit beautifully.  How fun is that!?!

My message to anyone who wants to see a change is to just get started.  The rest will take care of itself.  If it feels awkward in the beginning, keep going!  It really does get better and better.  And if you need motivation, look to the kids…. They are so encouraging and are so excited that you are even trying!  You might be trying to be a good role model for them, but in the end you are truly blessed by the children.

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2013 What a ride! Fargo, Fall, Fire and Ringo Starr

2013 has been a year like none other. It has been a year of unexpected twists and turns that when laid to pen….I can hardly believe the journey.  It reads like a fiction novel…but every word is the truth.

The year started out rough for me personally. I lost my mom unexpectedly in June of 2012 and started this year with my step dad of forty years following in her footsteps. By late spring we were scattering his ashes in the same place we scattered our mothers. Through all this hardship I always felt blessed that my work was also my life’s passion. To come to work and have the opportunity, each and every day, to make a difference and to work with people who share this passion truly became extraordinarily valid and amplified after what I was going through. It is true…as one door closes a window opens somewhere.

-A woman from Oxbow-
Back in March we got a phone call from a woman in Oxbow, ND, Becca Murphy. She was entering a pageant to compete for Mrs. North Dakota. For 15 years, she has been a Fitness Trainer and reached out to us because she wanted her pageant platform to be kids’ fitness. She quickly raised $1500.00 and organized a fitness carnival. We sent in our Master Teacher, Steve Cox, to introduce and lead PFA activities at this event. Not only was this event amazing and hugely successful, but prior to the event, she met with Scheels Sporting Goods and single handedly raised $17,800 to bring our initiative to Cass County as our first model and pilot program for North Dakota! We are currently running a call for proposals to match those funds with a school.  She was not chosen as Mrs. North Dakota.  She did win the Director’s Award, which is such an honor …and the Fitness Award..which we never doubted for a second!! Becca’s goal was to compete and create a Cass County model of Fitness in Education for kids. Working with her has been an honor. Her spirit, drive and deep commitment to fitness is the kind of inspiration you don’t see every day. To have Becca on your team is something special and we look forward with great anticipation to working with her in 2014 and beyond! She is our Mrs. North Dakota through and through…and thousands of kids are going to have their lives changed because of her decision to go for it!! Can one person make a difference? Absolutely!!

Fitness Carnival

Pageant Night

Director’s Award!


-Fall launch-
Throughout 2013 we were cooking on all four burners with our goals in sight every day…to raise awareness on the importance of funding Broad Based Fitness in Education in schools. By the fall, we were able to work with over 200 schools nationwide. No sooner did August arrive and our work shifted into high gear city-by-city, state-by-state. Every day for three months straight was super charged. The hours were long, the work was inspiring… literally thousands upon thousands of kids were impacted!

Across the country our Mentor Teachers/Trainers were out in field working with our grant schools, their communities and Sponsors ..all at the top of their game. Every project was stellar. Each community a true beacon of the good things taking place for children’s education in this country and what is going right with our schools. It is impossible to single out a community for a spot light as they all are incredibly inspiring. We can say on great authority, that when a community comes together and decides that kids and schools come first, with a commitment to teach the whole child what happens next is pure magic. Each school and community is blazing a trail that will be impacting children’s health for years to come. They have set the bar high and hitched their wagon to a higher star! We can’t wait to be in field again in 2014 and to work with each of you. It is an honor and privilege to be a part of your community.

In the midst of this work in October one of our own here at home office lost her home to an electrical fire and her father seriously injured. There are no words to describe the pain and sadness. There are also no words to describe the phenomenal outpouring of hope, support, prayers and love that came from everywhere through a community that extended far beyond our four walls and into the hearts of many.

Her father was recently moved to a rehab facility, has many health complications and heals slowly, but each day brings hope. It is one day a time. Then just in time for the holidays she was able to finally move out of the hotel she and her family had been in for two months and into a temporary home for the next six months while she works with the insurance company to rebuild. Through all this, she has inspired us and given a new meaning to the words hope, faith, gratitude and love.

-Ringo Starr-
Toward the end of October USA Today Pop Music Critic, Edna Gunderson, interviewed Ringo Starr about a book he was releasing called Photograph. The centerpiece of this book was a picture he took in 1964 of a carload of teens he “met” on the Van Wick Expressway leaving JFK for the BEATLES first appearance to do the Ed Sullivan show. In that interview with Edna he said he would like to know who are those “ kids in the car?” His quest for those “kids” went viral.   The next day my husband, Charlie, and I woke up  to the phone ringing off the hook very early. We do not pick up and let it go to the answering machine. Only to hear someone saying “Charlie, a BEATLE is looking for you! Ringo Starr wants to know who you are!”

It turns out one of the “kids in the car” was my husband! (back seat w/hands out the window)

What happened next is beyond surreal. Every media outlet you can think of called became the top trending story …next thing you know NBC/TODAY SHOW sent a car to our home, fly us to NYC and next thing I know..there is my husband in “hair and makeup” with Carson Daly! and on the TODAY SHOW with Matt Lauer et al. and to boot…we got to be in the Orange Room with them and watch Celine Dion perform.

While on that show, Matt Lauer tells us that they are sending us to Las Vegas for the final concert of Ringo’s Tour at the Palms Hotel and to meet Ringo himself.   So the weekend before Thanksgiving they send a car to our house and flew us to Las Vegas!  Only way to describe all this..a Magical Mystery Tour! One we will never forget!

You cannot make this stuff up. Life is truly stranger than fiction. If I have learned one thing from 2013 it is to expect the unexpected, to have faith in good times and bad, and to never stop dreaming….because ANYTHING is possible!

This has been one heck of a ride, a year I will never forget for so many reasons..but most of all…what I will never forget are the people with whom I have been blessed to work with and my family.  You blur together and become one in my heart.

With deep gratitude to all of you!
-Stacey Cook



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Getting Ready to Rock It!

It is hard to believe we are at mid July.   This time of year we are plotting, planning and preparing for the Fall Launch of new schools and Sponsors and returning to many schools for their 2nd year of in-service and program progression.  It’s like working a huge jigsaw puzzle of cities and states across the nation, and making sure all the pieces fit.  This fall we will be serving over 200 schools and 100,000 students.

We have the opportunity to read the year-end teacher evaluations, look at pre and post testing outcomes and study each school to devise strategies for helping them to build a vibrant broad based fitness program for their students.

We have set and  hold conference calls with our new Sponsors and schools to collaborate  our plans for the big media days and Opening Day Kick Off events in the fall.  We prepare and ship out Event Planning guides, work on press releases and organize each school and Sponsor’s special project launch.  We order and ship the equipment to be donated, print and ship all the curriculum materials and lesson plan support supplies, and begin connecting each school to a their personal PFA Mentor Teacher who will be on site with them in the fall to work hand in hand to help them launch and facilitate new programming.

We prepare for new grant programs to launch in the fall for donors and Sponsor’s looking to launch with us in the fall of 2014.  We also continue all of our fund raising efforts to be able to help and serve new schools, teachers, kids and communities across America.

This is a wonderful time of year…that crystallizes and culminates all of our hard working fund raising efforts of sourcing funds for schools for the past year.  It is the manifestation of the grant programs held throughout the country to find and select our Sponsor’s partner schools. It is a time of gratitude for the amazing Sponsors and Donors who make this all possible.  They are the wind beneath our wings.   The shared spirit and enthusiasm is contagious…and it keeps growing to epic levels as the teachers and students start returning to school throughout August.  We love this time of year…it is filled with hope, validation and inspiration.  It is a real “VR”….Vision Realized.

Don’t think we are all work and no play!! We take full advantage of the summer…from vacations with families and friends to lots of biking, hiking, swimming, and all kinds of outdoor fun…we are rested, pumped and ready to rock kids’ fitness from coast to coast!




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Picture This!

Guest Blog by Kim Berg-Alamance Elementary School-Greensboro, NC

Picture this….walking into your child’s third grade teacher’s classroom and seeing nothing on the walls.   No procedures, no rules, no signs of curriculum being taught, and no student work.  Would you want your child to have that teacher?

Then think to yourself PE Teachers… what do parents, administrators and other teachers in your school see in your “classroom.”  What is on your walls?

Do your walls have evidence of what is going on in your gym?  Are students being recognized for their achievements?  Eleven years ago, I realized that if people were to walk into my gym, they wouldn’t have a clue to what was happening in my physical education classes.   Not because I was not doing great things… but because I was showing no evidence of what I was teaching and what my students were achieving.   Project Fit America has helped me embrace the philosophy of posting what is important in my gym….key terms, phrases, mottos, and challenge charts.

I encourage you to ask yourself these questions: What do you really want your students to know by the time they leave you? Are your students learning how to set reasonable goals for themselves and achieving them?

As you answer these questions you will not believe the power it brings to your teaching when you put the answers to those questions on your gym walls!  This reinforces everything you are teaching and your students will love it!  Traveling the nation as a PFA Trainer and Mentor Teacher I have seen, first hand, that there are so many wonderful PE teachers out there who are doing amazing things.     I encourage every PE teacher  to show what is going on in your PE program so others can see it!  You and your students are doing great things…time to shine the light and share!


My current “Motto” and Gym Entrance Header. I saw this at motto at Lawhon School in Tupelo, MS and had to bring home to my students. I rotate my “mottos” throughout the year.

Chart and Challenge Wall of Pride!

Chart and Challenge Wall Charts

Chart and Challenge Wall Charts

Word Wall

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How I challenge my kids.

-Guest Blog-
Diane Earhart-All Star Physical Education Teacher
South Central Elementary School-Chuckey, TN

The Pride of Wildcats at South Central is blessed to have received the Project Fit America program 13 years ago in 2000. I am in my 40th year of teaching and I love it.  I have added many units and many challenges of which students set goals, try to reach, and when reached, their goals are set a little higher. Challenges are used to keep our program energized, thus working toward making a healthier student who understands that physical activity is a part of a well-rounded, healthy child. Awards are excellent incentives for students; thus producing students who are physically fit.

During the school year we are participating in challenges each nine-week block. All challenges are preceded with intense practice and motivation. The students are not competing with each other, only themselves. Each six weeks a student will try to move further up the ladder on our challenge scale. Levels are as follows: Bronze, Silver, Gold, Kong Levels and Kong Elite level (the highest level that a student may attain.) This is the student that sets the record in the United States among Project Fit Schools. All students are awarded with certificates, ribbons, lanyards, and charms for the lanyard. Some students could win up to 15 different charms for the lanyards. Challenges are used to keep our program energized, thus working toward making a healthier student who understands that physical activity is a part of a well-rounded, healthy child. I have listed the challenges I am offering this year. Awards are excellent incentives for students, thus producing students who are physically fit.


Pacer is a shuttle run to background music with “Beeps” going off to regulated intervals reminding students to start each new run. The interval of the “Beeps” increases by a half-second after approximately eight laps. The distance will be approximately 50 feet each run. Once a student reaches level six, he/she has earned the “Bronze” medal level, which is the “Pacer Pride Level”. When level 8 is achieved, the student has reached the “Silver” medal level. At level 10 the student will have obtained the “Gold” medal level (Big Cookie Club).

At the end of the year all students who have obtained the “Gold” medal level will try for level 12, which is the “Kong Level”. Awards will be presented at the close of the school year. This is represented on the lanyard as a runner. One is earned with each level of challenge obtained.


Lub Dup’r is a fitness rope-jumping challenge. Students will be introduced to rope jumping at each grade level. Once skills have been introduced, the students will follow the following steps. This is represented as a jumper on the lanyard.

2-Foot Jump 2 Foot Jume 2 Foot Jump 2 FOOT JUMP
Jump 1 minute (4-8) (no Flubs) (NO Flubs) 3 MIN (5-8)
(no flubs) Jump 2 min. (5-8) Jump 2 min. 30 sec (5-8) 2 MIN (K-4)
Jump 30 seconds (K-3) Jump 1 min. (K-4) Jump 1 min. 30 sec. (K-4)


Feelin” Good Smile Mile challenge is a jog, run program. The students will be earning a bronze, silver, gold, or Kong award for the levels of this program. This is represented on the lanyard as a foot. If all levels are earned they receive 4 feet and a large foot for Kong.

The student must jog, run, no stopping, ¼ mile.
In our gym, this is 5 laps.

The student must jog, no stopping ½ mile.
In our gym, this is 9 laps

The student must jog, run, no stopping 1 mile.
In our gym, this is 18 laps.

The student must hit the 85% time for their grade level as dictated by the “President’s Fitness Test” standards. (Ex. 5th grade boy= 7:32 minute mile)


This challenge will involve distance a student has walked, jogged, or run during our regular running and pedometer work. The distance the student has traveled for the time period will be recorded and a running record will be kept. This is represented on the lanyard by a number.

Awards will be as follows:
Bronze Award and one Foot: 3 miles
Silver Award and two Feet: 6 miles
Gold Award and 3 Feet: 8 miles
Kong Award and 4 feet: 10 miles


The Hubba Hubba challenge will involve the hula hoop, no ordinary hoop. The hoop used is provided by the Project Fit America. The student will see how long he/she can hula hoop without losing control of the hoop. This will be represented on the lanyard by a thumbs up.


How I reward my students and track their progress.

All students at South Central receive a South Central lanyard on my very own ‘Physical Education Honors Day in May’. On the lanyard are tokens that the student earned on each challenge. Tokens on the lanyard include a runner for Smile Mile. Each level (bronze, silver, gold, kong) will earn a runner, thus a student may earn four. A foot is the token that represents each Pacer level. Lub dup’r (jump rope) has a jump rope token. Hubba Hubba (hula hoop) has a thumbs up token. Laps the students run each day are kept in the journal and on honors day the lanyard will have a number to represent the miles the child has run for the year

A journal is kept on each student at South Central. These are given to each child on Honors Day. Inside the journal are certificates from challenges, lanyards with all tokens earned, ribbons and certificates from the PFA fitness test, certificates from units taught (heart unit, archery, golf, basketball, etc.), a sheet that tells each student what level they reached on Pacer, Smile Mile, Lub Dup’r, Distance (number of miles run for the year), Hubba, Hubba, and any other valuable items the student has earned throughout the year.

At South Central, we have three clubs that have evolved from PFA Chart and Challenge. One special club within my program is” Big Cookie Club”. A special day is set-aside for these club members to come to the gym and try to beat their own level and perhaps set a record. The students work hard to get into this Club. I have some Kindergarten students in this club. To be a member, the student must have reached level 12 on the Pacer challenge. A second club is the Hubba Hubba Club. A student must hula-hoop at least twelve minutes to be a member. These students also get a special day to meet in the gym to try and beat their score. A third club, just incorporated this year is the ‘Smile Mile’ club. Any student who earns the standard set for the mile will be a member. These students will also get to come to the gym and try to improve their time. All club members will get to come to the gym on a special day, break all nutrition rules, (HAHA) and eat Big Cookie.

All in all, my Physical Education Program is one of total student participation – total want to take part – and total love  the program. Thank you Project Fit for making the physical education program at South Central a rewarding program.





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The Right People.

“Sometimes the most ordinary things become extraordinary, simply by doing them with the right people.”

This is a favorite quote of mine, by an author unknown. I think “author unknown” was very wise. This quote embodies what makes Project Fit America the special, dynamic organization we have become over the past twenty-two years. We are a collection of ordinary dedicated, passionate people who, when aligned with one another, create a force to be reckoned with. Together we create a grassroots network. Working school-by-school, community-by-community. We lift up and empower those whose vision it is to teach the whole child and believe in the immeasurable value of moving a child’s school environment from one of sedentary education to vibrant fitness in education.  A “Roll Call” of Gratitude is in due order as the sun sets on 2012.

First and foremost…Our Visionary Donors

There are over 1.2 million non-profit organizations in the United States. With so many worthy causes, we are blessed that our mission to fund and empower schools to create vibrant, fit kids is a choice made by many. This year we worked in 90 cities with over 50,000 kids and saw firsthand  passion in action. Our donors are a joy to work with. Passionate, engaged, and heartfelt about creating long lasting valuable partnerships with the children, families, schools and communities they serve. They care deeply about being part of the solution to launch children into healthy adulthood. These are marvelous people and organizations we are extremely proud to call our partners.

Next- We head straight to the front line. Schools-Where the action is!

We never cease to be profoundly moved and inspired by the PE Teachers, Principals and parents who tirelessly and lovingly work to create a place for our nation’s children to thrive. They are the MVP’s and the reason why we do what we do and why our donors give and support us. I am amazed at the huge volume of emails we get nights, weekends, holidays, spring and winter breaks…from them. These folks are never off the “clock” and work on behalf of their students long after the last school bus is parked back at the bus barn. They are also the nicest people in the world. They are eager, helpful, super passionate, and major advocates actually getting kids fit. We never forget the fact that almost EVERY child receives their ONLY introduction to fitness and activity as a lifestyle choice from a PE Teacher. They take this “charge” very seriously and when given a real chance….they will get the job done! One empowered PE Teacher can create healthy, passionate, self-actualized lives of hundreds of 1,000’s of children over the course of their career! Our most potent ally!

The Inside Track

Next and so vital is the roll call of people on the “inside track” of Project Fit America. Gratitude seems a word too small to fit all of them. Without a doubt the genesis of everything we teach leaves me beyond gratitude to Steve Cox. From his early days (in 1995) as a PFA grant recipient to becoming our National Director of In-Service and our Master Teacher.

It is because of the programming he developed that we have been able to amass an ever-expanding band of amazing PE Teachers. Many are All Stars and/or well on their way to becoming All Stars and work with us from coast to coast. Some work with us in an Advisory Capacity and some as Mentor Teachers to our new grant schools. Some travel the nation working with our new schools one on one, others help us try out new lessons, help us entertain new and innovative directions, some present at state and regional conferences, others open their doors to a visiting teacher who wants to learn about our special brand of innovative fitness in education. These are amazing people that I am deeply blessed to have the honor of working with. I am humbled by your passion and love for the work you do and the children you serve.

Home Office

Next in line of this roll call…home office. I am also incredibly proud and humbled by the most incredible “Administrative Warriors” on the planet Earth..our home office team at Project Fit America!  Believe me “team” is the right word!! The plethora of adjectives that comes rushing forward…tireless, passionate, caring, committed, funny and joy. They are all these things and much more. They truly love the work they do and it shows…each and every day. I also want to give an extra special shout out to Stephanie Elliott, who celebrates her ten-year anniversary of working with us!

Change is Real

As we close out 2012, I see hope and lots of it. There is a pattern of change…schools becoming the centerpiece and ground zero for launching children into healthy adulthood.   There is  more awareness of the body/brain connection and the fact that sedentary education disadvantages children academically.   This change is real.   It is happening everyday in thousands of schools across the nation. It has been and always will be our core mission and value to continue to be an agent for this change. This is what drives us, inspires us, and compels us each and everyday. It is why we give…100% and then more.  I sign off another one of my all time favorite quotes by another wise author unknown….

“There is no substitute for working with people who make a difference.”

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If these gymnasium walls could talk.

Guest Blog by Adrian Dodson-Physical Education Teacher/All Star Teacher of the Year-Pass Road Elementary School-Gulfport, MS

“It definitely needs something” I said to myself, while surveying the dull white walls inside the antiquated gym.  The gym where I’d spend eight hours a day teaching elementary students the most important class of their lives, physical education.  Neither a window, nor a ray of sunlight to be found anywhere in the primer grey and achromatic pale dividers that surrounded me.  I was beginning to question my decision to even accept this position as an elementary P.E. teacher.

Always one to fall back on two constants that forever brighten my own mood, I thought about music and art, and how they could help remedy this predicament of the drab gymnasium.  My mind raced with ideas.  I need light, and brightness, and dazzling colors, and high energy to promote enthusiasm…I need fitness buzz words posted and shiny happy children exercising (to the B-52’s)…I need this gym to be THE most exciting and special place my students had ever walked into…And most of all I needed…HELP making it happen!  That help would come in the form of a very special group of college students from William Carey University, my old alma mater.

While strolling out of my favorite coffee shop several days later, I saw them.  Meticulously studying the majestic oaks draped in moss that surrounded the noshery’s courtyard, they sketched, as the sound of Eddie Vedder’s tortured wails echoed from a boom box.  Hmmm…”Definitely my kind of people” I thought.  “Hello fellow artsy, grunge rock loving, stylish cool dudes and dudettes” (I may have just said “hello I’m Coach Dodson and I need you to paint a mural in a gym for free”, I’m not certain).  Regardless, the initial encounter was a positive one, and I was sure this talented gaggle of artists would be the answer in the case of the lackluster gym.

After meeting the instructor of the William Carey College art and design class, we decided on a theme for the décor of my gym.  We would photograph the students from my school as they frolic uninhibited around the playground.  We would then cast those images onto the walls via projector, and superimpose the actual kids themselves in pencil drawings.  They would try and capture the youthful enthusiasm of each individual doing the most natural thing a child does, playing without a care in the world!  After sketching out each child, along with the landscape and playground equipment they reveled upon, bright coats of primary colors were brushed onto the once mundane barriers.  Within a week the old gym began to come alive with breathtaking colors and scenes which featured the students of Pass Road Elementary School in action.

Looking back now, ten years later, I am sure that the atmosphere created by those outstanding artists made a huge difference in my physical education classes.  As those walls began to come alive a funny thing happened, so did I.  I dedicated my entire life to promoting health and fitness to the students who walk through the doors of that glorious gym.  That colorful mural serves as a cornerstone to my commitment and a reminder of what I strive to portray.  I have been fortunate enough to garner many accolades and awards over the course of ten years.  I am convinced much of that success stems from a passion which was awakened by a group of artists.  Like clockwork, my former students come back to visit the old gym, gazing up at their image on the great walls.  I sense a warmth that takes them back to a happy time, a time I was fortunate to be a part of, and like a doting father, I feel a sense of accomplishment for being allowed that privilege.  I am a better man because of the time and fellowship spent teaching, exercising, playing, nurturing and being as one with God’s precious children inside those walls.

As I sit here today, Pearl Jam’s Alive blaring through my gym’s sound system, amid a sea of colorful portraits and memorabilia, I would say to you…Never underestimate the power of music, art and physical education to change the life of a child.  Or maybe even an adult if you embrace it!

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My students are still talking about this!

Guest Blog: Leanne Jack-All Star Teacher of the Year East Pike Elementary School-Indiana, PA

I know now how blessed I have been in my teaching career because PFA’s Master Teacher, Mr. Cox, has been to my school THREE times. In October, Project Fit America chose East Pike Elementary School in Indiana, PA to host an Advanced Project Fit America (PFA) program usage PE Conference. Indiana County is very fortunate to have five local schools involved with PFA because of the generous funding from Indiana Regional Medical Center.  Participants  in this conference included Larry Cadile (Ben Franklin-Indiana), Scott Bauer (Homer Center), Todd McGee (Blairsville), Justin Kulik (Saltsburg) Justin Henning (United), a few student teachers and myself.

The day was filled with anxious students participating in a wide variety of activities introduced by a very energetic Mr. Cox. His enthusiasm for PFA and love of teaching is contagious. The eagerness of my students performing the new activities was overwhelming to me. I could not wait! All of the activities continued with the theme of incorporating TCC (PFA’s Teamwork, Communication and Cooperation).  With the outstanding carpentry work of Scott Bauer, Mr. Cox was able to demonstrate the Balance Table to all of us. It is a highly exciting, demanding, high level TCC activity that my students are still talking about it.



But above all, the favorite game of students and PFA teachers who have participated was BREAKOUT. If you have never played it, please take the time to do so. (call or email PFA they will get you this lesson if you don’t have it.)  Your gym will never be the same!

The Dot Drill adapted by All Star Teacher Adrian Dodson is now a morning favorite here at East Pike since the weather has changed and our morning Smile Mile jog/walks are over. Students from Kindergarten through fifth grade come directly to the gym after getting off the bus to practice the Dot Drill before going to their homerooms. It is a wonderful sight having the gym filled with students waiting to break a sweat!


This Advanced Session of PFA was a very special day in many ways here at East Pike. Not only did it give an opportunity for local PFA teachers to collaborate and discuss the different ways we all are developing and benefiting from PFA, but it also allowed us the opportunity to hear directly from Mr. Cox stories about the special people involved with this amazing non profit organization helping schools nationwide. We could have stayed for another day just listening. My entire day with Mr. Cox and the Indiana County PFA teachers was priceless, and I would be honored to host this event if given a chance again.


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Taking a step back to reflect.

Guest Blog by Scott Bauer
Elementary Physical Education
Project Fit America All Star Teacher 2008
Homer-Center Elementary School-Indiana, PA

As Thanksgiving approaches, we should all pause and think about what we are grateful for in our lives. Sometimes the pace of life gets too fast and we forget to appreciate everything that we have in front of us. The fall is an especially busy time in my house; work, soccer practice, dance lessons, gymnastic lessons and swim practice. Sometime I feel like a taxi service! But I wouldn’t change it for the world. This is a perfect time, for me, to take a step back, take a deep breath and reflect on my life and the things I cherish most. Personally, I am so thankful for my wife and 2 kids and friends. I am blessed with many people in my life who care deeply about me and I appreciate every one of them. Professionally, I am thankful for Project Fit America and what they have done for me and my teaching career. They have opened new avenues and have gotten me thinking “outside the box” and it has helped me to produce a fun, diverse and energetic environment at Homer-Center. With their help I have been able to create a place that the students love to come to everyday to learn new PE skills and lifelong lessons. As PE teachers our affect on students is immeasurable. Your students will remember you and your lessons the most out of all their experiences in school. Take solace in knowing that there are students in your school who are thankful for you, your programs and what you do for them on a daily basis. Although they may not say it often or even at all, know they are there.

So take a minute out of your busy schedule this week and reflect back on the school year and see how far you and your students have come. Enjoy your Thanksgiving break, re charge your batteries and come back refreshed and renewed next week. Happy Thanksgiving PFA Nation!!

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