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Salem receives fitness grant

Salem Elementary received Tuesday approximately $2,750 of the $5,500 Be Healthy School grant in April. Given by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, the grant will used to promote a healthy lifestyle to the students and staff at Salem Elementary. Pictured above, left to right, are Salem Elementary Principal Melvin Flanagan-Brown, Assistant Dallas County Superintendent of Education Hattie Shelton, Dallas County Superintendent of Education Don Willingham, Physical Education Instructor Bertram Crum, Dallas County School Board member Roy Edwards and Blue Cross Blue Shield Representative Jeff Adams.

Salem Elementary received Tuesday approximately $2,750 of the $5,500 Be Healthy School grant in April. Given by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, the grant will used to promote a healthy lifestyle to the students and staff at Salem Elementary. Pictured above, left to right, are Salem Elementary Principal Melvin Flanagan-Brown, Assistant Dallas County Superintendent of Education Hattie Shelton, Dallas County Superintendent of Education Don Willingham, Physical Education Instructor Bertram Crum, Dallas County School Board member Roy Edwards and Blue Cross Blue Shield Representative Jeff Adams.

Thanks to a $5,500 grant from the Alabama division of a nationwide insurance company, Salem Elementary School will not be fighting childhood obesity alone.

Salem Elementary received $2,750 of the $5,500 Be Healthy School Grant Blue Cross Blue Shield awarded in it April. The money will used to promote a healthy lifestyle among the school’s students and staff through its new First Choice health program.

“We were ecstatic,” Betram Crum, a physical education teacher at Salem Elementary, said. “We were one of 28 Alabama schools that were funded, so we feel honored.”

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama awarded $249,513 in grants to 28 schools across Alabama to fund the implementation of health and wellness programs, according to the insurance company’s website.

Salem Elementary was the only school in Dallas County to receive the grant.

Initiated by Crum, the school’s First Choice program is designed to teach third grade students to choose healthy foods and the life-long benefits that come with selecting those foods.

The grant will fund heart-rate monitors, weighing scales, mats, scoreboards, cones, balls and other equipment for First Choice program participants. A portion of the money will also fund fitness supplies for the school students.

The school will receive the remainder of the grant money in January.

Crum said his idea to initiate the First Choice program stemmed from a desire to incorporate nutrition into the National Football League’s Play 60 challenge, which asks children to play for at least 60 minutes each day.

“The main reason I want to focus on that component is to get them to understand the significance of not just right now, but the long-term effects,” Crum said. “They can live, long healthy lives and avoid many catastrophic illnesses.”

The school district depends heavily on funding from the Alabama Department of Education to pay instructors. Because state funding is based on enrollment and the amount of teacher units, the system can only afford to hire physical education instructors for a select few elementary schools, Superintendent of Education Don Willingham said.

The teachers are the ones responsible for taking the children outside to play for those elementary schools who do not have a physical education instructor.

Considering the limited funding, Willingham said he was pleased to learn that Salem’s physical education instructor would have the financial support to provide healthy options to the students.

“When I was growing up, I think we just did activities, but now I’m not sure how much activity they get naturally,” Willingham said. “They are so attracted to the video games, television and inside things when they get home. The more we can do, the healthier they are.”