DALLAS – Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee was a featured speaker at the recent Texas AgriLife Extension Service and Fuel Up to Play 60 Partnership kickoff, which took place at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center, 17360 Coit Road in Dallas.
Fuel Up to Play 60 is an in-school nutrition and physical activity program launched by the National Dairy Council, Dairy MAX and the National Football League, in collaboration with U.S. Department of Agriculture. It encourages young people to consume nutrient-rich foods, including low-fat and fat-free dairy foods, fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and to get at least 60 minutes of daily physical activity.
“Fuel Up to Play 60 is a great initiative to get kids interested in exercise and nutrition,” said Lee, who has been a program spokesman and supporter since 2010. “If you get kids interested in a healthy lifestyle, it will help them in whatever career or endeavor that may have by making them feel better, have more energy and have better concentration.”
The kickoff, which included speakers’ presentations, a press conference, an exercise warm-up with more than 30 area 4-H club members and a 5K walk/run led by Lee, officially welcomed AgriLife Extension to the program. It also introduced AgriLife Extension’s plans to support and promote Fuel Up to Play 60 statewide, beginning with their multi-county East Region, which includes Dallas and Tarrant counties.
“I had seen the Play 60 commercials on TV and was really excited that 4-H would have the opportunity to play a part in the program,” said Catlyn Wold, 17, a senior at Wills Point High School.
Wold, who participated in program activities, serves as president of the Kaufman County 4-H Youth Council. Texas 4-H and Youth Development is the statewide youth program of AgriLife Extension.
“The whole event was amazing in every aspect,” she said. “It was great to meet Sean Lee and to hear from Mr. Ramsey, who is a dairyman and one of our biggest area 4-H supporters. I’m also glad the NFL is behind this program, because the players are our heroes.”
4-H club members at the event also represented Collin and Denton counties.
In addition to Lee and 4-H club members, event participants included Shelly Sturges, district aide to Sen. John Carona; Katy Aldredge, deputy district director for Rep. Stefani Carter; Rear Adm. Epifiani “Epi” Elizondo, regional health administrator, and Stacy Harper, both with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Pat Thompson, Dallas Cowboys organization; Julie Stefko, youth fitness project manager, NFL Play 60 FITNESSGRAM Project and Kate Losecco, Cooper Institute; Dolores Bell, regional manager, Big Thought; The Texas A&M University System, Dairy MAX and dairy industry representatives; and local dairy farmer and Dairy MAX board member Lynn Ramsey.
More than 60 AgriLife Extension East Region family and consumer sciences agents also participated in event activities, including the 5K and post-activity “refueling” where they were provided bananas, chocolate milk and yogurt for energy.
“Our agency’s family and consumer sciences and 4-H and youth development agents already work extensively in Texas schools,” said Dr. Susan Ballabina, AgriLife Extension family and consumer sciences regional director for the East Region.
Ballabina helped coordinate the Fuel Up to Play 60 event with Dairy MAX, a nonprofit organization affiliated with the National Dairy Council and funded by dairy farming families in Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and southwest Kansas.
“The Fuel Up to Play 60 umbrella will allow us additional visibility and resources to enhance our school-based efforts and increase our visibility,” Ballabina said.
She added that health and nutrition is one of the agency’s key program areas and AgriLife Extension has an “extensive network of specialists, county agents and volunteers” who work together to serve Texans through community-based education.
Lee, who has visited area schools over the past two years as part of Fuel up to Play 60 program participation, said he was excited about having more people out in the community to spread the word about health and wellness to young people.
“The more people we have out there reaching the kids, the greater the impact of the program and its ability to help them learn the importance of good nutrition and physical exercise,” he said.
“The Fuel Up to Play 60 program puts kids in the driver’s seat to their own health,” said Teresa Wagner, registered dietitian and director of medical outreach for Dairy MAX. “It’s our responsibility to create the type of collaborative environment we have in 70,000 schools across the nation, so youth can ultimately apply healthy habits and make nutritious choices throughout their lives. This partnership can help extend our resources and increase our impact.”
“We already offer significant learning opportunities to 4-H members interested in health and nutrition,” Ballabina said. “The physical activity and nutrition challenges offered through Fuel Up to Play 60 will give our 4-H members more opportunities to learn about health and to positively influence the health of their peers.”
Dr. Chris Boleman, Texas 4-H and youth development program director in College Station, who attended the kickoff, said he had already seen the “enthusiasm and excitement” of 4-H members aware of AgriLife Extension’s new involvement in the program.
“I know our 4-H members will take the enthusiasm and excitement they’re showing about the Fuel Up to Play 60 to others in their clubs and to schools throughout this region and, as it expands, throughout the state,” Boleman said.
Boleman noted that currently there are more than 14,000 4-H club members in the agency’s East Region and more than 60,000 members statewide. More than 662,000 youth are involved in 4-H programs or activities statewide.
“Our collaborations with other organizations make our network of agents able to accomplish even more, and we couldn’t be more pleased to be partnering with Dairy MAX and the NFL to support the Fuel Up to Play 60 program,” Ballabina said.