Hometown Huddle brings Cowboys’ stars to Sanger

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Students at Alex Sanger Elementary scored a visit from notable Dallas Cowboys alum this week as part of an initiative aimed at promoting youth health and wellness.

Former linebacker Bradie James and Super Bowl MVP Larry Brown presented Sanger with a $2,500 grant on behalf of Hometown Huddle, a partnership between United Way and Fuel Up to Play 60, and the Gene and Jerry Jones Foundation. The grant was in response to Sanger’s efforts to encourage healthy lifestyles among students and families at the school.

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In addition to presenting the $2,500 check, Brown and James joined volunteers from the Cowboys and United Way in leading football drills and painting playground games on the school’s blacktop.

“When I was growing up, exercise and getting fit was more military style—you did pushups and sit ups and it became a little boring. But when you can bring former NFL guys out and throw footballs and go through drills with people that you’ve watched on television, it excites the kids to do a little more,” Brown said. “I think teaching kids to stay active at a very young age and let students know exercise is not a punishment, that it can be fun.”

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Sanger Principal Hector Martinez said his school is focused on promoting healthy living, encouraging at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day, and encouraging kids to not only have a healthy body, but a healthy mindset. The school incorporates “brain breaks” throughout the day, which are two- to three-minutes of physical activity in the classroom between instruction. Martinez said the activity translates to improved student academic performance.

“I grew up in Dallas and am excited about having Larry Brown and Bradie James here with our students,” Martinez said. ”Having our students see these celebrities and interact with them is outstanding for them.”

United Way of Metropolitan Dallas CEO and President Jennifer Sampson said the event at Sanger was an opportunity to recognize a school that “is demonstrating all the best practices in health and wellness, physical activity and nutrition.”

“Alex Sanger is demonstrating all of the right best practices to help influence and inspire other schools and other students, administrators and principals to implement these types of practices in their curriculum,” Sampson said.

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Sanger PE teacher Rose Hammond, the driving force in the day’s activities, wrote a Healthy Zone grant at the end of last year that allowed her to purchase $1,500 in PE equipment and fund health and nutrition-focused projects. The projects include hosting family fitness night, healthy foods taste testing, and other efforts to get students and families to engage in healthy living.

Hammond said Fuel Up to Play 60 encourages kids to log onto their website and track their food and exercise. Students are then rewarded points based on their activity and healthy lifestyle choices.

“To see these (Dallas Cowboys) players and United Way come out and help our students has been great,” Hammond said. “I’m crazy for PE and health and this is a special opportunity.”

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