EDINBURG – Who’s healthier, Mission High School’s eagle or Economedes High School’s jaguar? The Mascot Challenge will pit local school rivalries to decide whose sideline-roaming, costumed mascot is in better shape, according to organizers of a county health initiative that will officially launch later this month.
The Walk Across Texas/Healthy South Texas Kickoff will be held from 9 a.m. to noon Feb. 20 at the Edinburg City Hall Courtyard, 415 W. University Drive in Edinburg, according to Andrea Valdez, a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service family and consumer sciences county educator in Edinburg.
Presiding over the ribbon-cutting to start the Hidalgo County programs will be state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa and Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia.
Hinojosa and Texas A&M University Chancellor John Sharp teamed up last year in Weslaco to introduce to the area Healthy South Texas, a pilot effort to reduce preventable diseases in the region.
At the time, Sharp said, “We’re doing for health what AgriLife Extension agents have done for agriculture for more than a century. Essentially, we’re creating a new crop of AgriLife Extension agents, poised to empower Texans to take control of their own health and wellness.”
Health South Texas combines expertise of the Texas A&M Health Science Center with outreach efforts of AgriLife Extension to promote preventive health awareness at the local community level, Valdez said.
“We’ve combined Walk Across Texas and Healthy South Texas to address Hidalgo County’s high obesity rate, which today stands at 34 percent,” Valdez said. “But to kick off the programs on Feb. 20, we want to do it in a loud and fun way for the whole family.”
Walk Across Texas is a health and fitness program of AgriLife Extension that has been implemented in communities across the state for more than a decade.
“Walk Across Texas is an eight-week physical activity program for groups or individuals, which is designed to encourage everyone to be active and take that first step to a healthy lifestyle,” Valdez said.
In addition to the Mascot Challenge, other activities at the event will include free Zumba instruction, an obstacle course moon jump, face-painting by Hidalgo County 4-H’ers, healthy recipe food demonstrations, and the chance for children to get free identification cards and to hop aboard and explore a real fire truck.
“Aside from exercising and eating healthier foods, a very important start toward healthier living is identifying what health issues people may have so they can have some direction in addressing those issues,” Valdez said. “So we’ve partnered with experts to offer health screening at this event.”
Among those assisting with health screenings will be Edinburg Regional Medical Center, Valley Retina Institute and the South Texas Juvenile Diabetes Association. Free injury assessments will be provided by Airrosti Rehab Centers.
Students who want to cheer on their school mascots through the obstacle course in the Mascot Challenge should call 956-383-1026 to sign up.
“We’ll also be signing up teams for Walk Across Texas who will have the opportunity to kick off their walking miles at the event,” Valdez said. “And the first 100 people at the event will receive a Healthy South Texas light-up safety bracelet.
“We’ll have a Juice Up cold pressed juice bar, fresh local vegetables and honey for sale, kids’ activities by the Dustin Michael Sekula Memorial Library of Edinburg, and ‘walk and talks’ with doctors from Edinburg Regional Medical Center,” she said.