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Five Arizona Teachers Each Receive $5,000 Grant Money to fund school programs to fight childhood obesity

May 19, 2014 03:00 PM

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona recently awarded five Arizona teachers a $5,000 grant for each of their schools to fund health-related programs in Arizona. The five grants were awarded based on the winners’ exceptional execution of the 2014 Walk On! Challenge.

The Walk On! Challenge is a free month-long health and fitness challenge held each year in February. It is available to schools across the state. The program has reached more than 261,000 fifth-graders since it began and aims to motivate them to incorporate healthy habits into their daily routines for a healthier lifestyle now and in the future.

As part of the criteria of the grant application, teachers were asked to specify what the grant money would be used for if they won it for their school. Plans for funds include fitness stations around the school, new pedometers and heart-rate monitors, school education programs, field trips, play equipment and organized activities that encourage family participation.

The result of the Walk On! Challenge was I learned as much about my students and their needs as they did about basic nutrition and exercise,” said Cathy Missler, teacher at Coyote Trail Elementary in Marana.

This year’s $5,000 grant recipients were:

  • Cathy Missler from Coyote Trail Elementary in Marana
  • Lisa Rickel from Thornydale Elementary in Marana
  • Ryan Buxton from Porter Elementary in Mesa
  • Ryan Eide from Kerr Elementary in Mesa
  • Tim Bergen from Lowell Elementary in Mesa

The program was included in classroom curriculum, gym, events and after school activities. By no means does the challenge ever end. We live in a society where obesity levels are skyrocketing, society is becoming more sedentary, and the fast food industry is growing,” said Buxton. “It is my hope that the healthy lifestyle instruction sponsored by the Walk On! Challenge and reinforced throughout the day, during the month of February, will make a difference in every child’s life at Porter.

Teachers from 212 schools participated in the Challenge reaching nearly 27,000 fifth-graders this year. Students reported eating more than 475,000 servings of fruits and vegetables and more than 121,000 hours of exercise in the month of February.

Arizona’s teachers are working hard to propel our state’s children to higher standards, in many cases with limited funds and resources,” said Dr. Vishu Jhaveri, chief medical officer for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona. “With the Walk On! Challenge, we provide teachers with a program that supports classroom learning while empowering children with nutrition and fitness knowledge that will last a lifetime.

For more information about Walk On!, grant criteria or the 5-2-1-0 daily goal, visit

About Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona (BCBSAZ), an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, is the largest Arizona-based health insurance company. Celebrating its 75th anniversary, this not-for-profit company provides health insurance products, services or networks to Arizonans across the state. With offices in Phoenix, Flagstaff, Tucson and the East Valley, the company employs more than 1,300 Arizonans. Follow BCBSAZ at or on Twitter at @bcbsaz to get information on health and wellness, a knowledgeable perspective on health insurance reform, and become a part of what we’re doing in your community.