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St. Bridget's gets big grant to jumpstart fitness goals

St. Bridget Parish School students found out they were one of ten schools selected to receive a $10,000 grant and other wellness incentives from the School Health Connection Program sponsored by Allina Health at an all-school assembly. Pictured in the back row, from left: Heather Logelin, Allina Health; Mary Gribble, St. Bridget's; Rev. Jerry Harris, St. Bridget's; Principal Sue Steckbauer, St. Bridget's; David Miller, president, River Falls Area Hospital; Jennifer Loesch, St. Bridget's parent. Front row...

With childhood obesity rates soaring and kids facing illnesses such as type 2 diabetes and hypertension, health care facilities are trying to get schools involved in combating the crisis.

In July, Allina Health, which includes River Falls Area Hospital, offered the opportunity for eastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin schools to apply for the School Health Connection Program.

"Young people who engage in healthy activities get better grades and feel better about themselves," said Heather Logelin, foundation and community engagement director at River Falls Area Hospital.

Local schools St. Bridget Parish School and Westside Elementary both entered for a chance to be part of the program. This required an application form, letter from the principle, letter from a staff member and letter from a parent.

After a competitive process with 80 school applicants, ten schools in early September were selected - one was St. Bridget's.

"Although we feel we are headed in the right direction, there is so much more to do -- so much more we could do with the funding and resources available from the Allina School Health Connection Program," said St. Bridget's principal, Sue Steckbauer.

"By providing presentations, offering monthly family fun nights utilizing opportunities available in our community, by offering new after school activities, and by further educating our entire school and parish community, we will not only prepare our students academically, but help them acquire and maintain a healthy lifestyle," said Steckbauer.

The Allina School Health Connection Program comes with a $10,000 check to be applied to something that school officials think will help reach its wellness goals. Of that amount, $1,000 needs to be student decided.

Each of the ten schools selected will work with the Allina School Health Connection Program to develop a program that is right for their students -- so each school will have a different program.

The one year program will also provide the school with direct access to caregivers, including a consulting physician from the River Falls Medical Clinic who will help staff respond to health issues affecting St. Bridget's.

In addition, online learning tools, teacher training and a health fair, which will include health screenings for teachers and parents, will be part of the program.

The online tools will feature 50 lessons that will be a resource for students and their parents.

According to Logelin, "Schools can play a critical role in helping establish those healthy behaviors that lead to academic -- and lifelong -- success. The schools we selected are committed to using the resources we provide to not only enhance the health and fitness of their students, but also to engage the families of their students -- making this a true community health improvement effort."

See the full article in the Oct. 11 edition of the Journal.

Jillian Dexheimer
Jillian Dexheimer has been a copy editor and reporter for the River Falls Journal since 2011. She previously worked for the River Falls Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau. Dexheimer holds a sociology degree from UW-River Falls.
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