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Blue Jackets "Stinger's Power Play Challenge" encourages healthy habits for kids

by Katie Foglia / Columbus Blue Jackets

If there’s one thing NHL players know, it’s the importance of exercise paired with healthy habits. But that’s not something athletes learn when they become professionals — it starts at a much younger age.

And that’s why, in keeping with the Blue Jackets’ mission to support the health and wellness of central Ohio youth, the team has introduced Stinger’s Power Play Challenge — an interactive school assembly program that teaches fitness through 60 minutes of active play each day.

The program, which is aimed at third and fourth graders, was launched in late January at Hilliard’s Darby Creek Elementary in front of a crowd of attentive and actively-engaged youngsters who screamed at the sight of everyone’s favorite green bug.

Stinger, the club’s beloved mascot, hosted the program with help from members of the Columbus Blue Jacket  Foundation. Throughout the approximately 45-minute program, Stinger engaged the kids through videos, a Q&A session, dance party (!) and shootout.

“Stinger’s Power Play Challenge is a great way to utilize the unique assets of our team, including players and our beloved mascot, Stinger, to encourage kids to be active and make healthy choices," said Kathryn Dobbs, Vice President of Community Relations and Executive Director of the Blue Jackets Foundation.

"With each school visit, we donate a full set of street hockey equipment, introducing more children to the game of hockey, while helping them to complete the challenge and get active.”

After a quick introduction about the team and explanation of the program, a Q&A engaged the kids with topics including definitions of teamwork, Blue Jackets trivia and examples of how the students like to be active.

“It was wonderful to have them here,” Jill Merkle, a teacher librarian at Darby Creek Elementary, said. “I think their enthusiasm was marked by how excited they were to have the organization there, especially Stinger. And I think the message really got across.”

All the kids took the Stinger’s Power Play Challenge pledge, and then answered the call with jumping jacks. The kids learned some signs of being active, like sweating and an increased heart rate, and went over Stinger’s list of ways to keep active.

One of the things on his list? Dancing, of course.

Molli Patterson, a 10-year-old fourth grade student at Darby Creek, said her favorite part of the assembly was the dance party. She said it shouldn’t be difficult for her to complete Stinger’s challenge.

“A lot of times, I’ll ride my bike outside when it’s not super cold and then me and my neighbors play four square or kickball,” Patterson said.

Throughout the program, videos featuring Blue Jackets players were played on TVs. Captain Nick Foligno, Brandon Dubinsky, Scott Hartnell, Sergei Bobrovsky and more shared ways they currently stay active and ways they stayed active as kids.

The students learned the importance of staying active and playing every day, even including some of the secondary benefits like building friendships and learning how to be a good teammate.

All of the healthy life lessons were paired with hockey, and the program ended with a shootout.

A few volunteers learned how to hold the sticks and got a chance to test their skills against goaltender Stinger. And the kids, demonstrating their teamwork, cheered for their classmates when they scored.

The program ended with a big surprise from Stinger: hockey equipment for the school and lunch boxes for each student. All schools that participate in Stinger’s Power Play Challenge will receive a new set of street hockey equipment for use in their physical education curriculum and students will go home with a “Go Play” lunch kit (donated by Thirty-One Gifts) that includes a skating pass for OhioHealth Chiller Ice Rinks, a Blue Jackets water bottle and an activity tracker to complete the challenge.

“It’s a wonderful program,” Merkle said of the challenge. “They do a lot of community support and offerings…they have a Student Achievers program, a Book Jackets program, Stinger’s Power Play Challenge. They are donating sports equipment to schools and all of the goodies and prizes, and my hope is that the kids love the Blue Jackets enough to participate on their own and then also get out to games and support the organization.”

The Blue Jackets expect to present Stinger’s Power Play Challenge to over 4,000 students at 25 elementary schools over the 2015-16 school year. In addition, the club will furnish over $15,000 worth of hockey equipment to participating schools.

The team is currently accepting requests to offer the program to additional schools in Franklin County and contiguous counties. To inquire about bringing Stinger’s Power Play Challenge to a local elementary school, click HERE.

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