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Ducks Host 1,500 Fifth Graders at Captain's Challenge Fit Finals

by Jenelyn Russo @JenelynRusso / Special to

The focus was on leadership and fitness as the Ducks welcomed 1,500 local fifth graders from 15 elementary schools to participate in the sixth annual Captain's Challenge Fit Finals on Tuesday at Honda Center.

As a part of the Anaheim Ducks S.C.O.R.E. (Scholastic Curriculum of Recreation and Education) Program, Captain's Challenge is a physical education initiative that looks to motivate and inspire fifth grade students by promoting healthy living concepts and fun physical activities as they prepare for their California Physical Fitness Test.

Offered free to participating schools through the Anaheim Ducks Foundation, the program begins with a 30-day workbook that schools incorporate into both the classroom and physical education coursework. The curriculum outlines physical fitness activities and encourages healthy lifestyle choices as a way of preparing the students for their state required physical fitness testing.

The curriculum also promotes concepts and character traits built around the idea of learning "what it takes to be a Captain," focusing on leadership qualities such as perseverance, courage and integrity. Students each have the opportunity to take turns wearing the "C" for a day as the classroom captain, where they lead their classmates through the workbook's exercises.

Orange Grove Elementary in Anaheim is in their first year utilizing the Captain's Challenge program at their school, and the leadership aspect of the workbook has been an effective tool with their students.

"It has definitely helped our school," said Orange Grove fifth grade teacher Jennifer Harrison. "It enabled our kids to not only build their cardio endurance and their flexibility, but build their leadership skills as well, and that's the component that we really appreciated in the Captain's Challenge."

More than 6,000 fifth graders from across 62 local schools incorporated the Captain's Challenge curriculum into their classrooms, with 1,500 of those students participating in the Fit Finals. At Honda Center, the kids put what they had learned to the test by completing each of the five assessments that comprise the California Physical Fitness Test, including sit-ups, push-ups, the sit-and-reach, trunk lifts and the one-mile run.

Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf joined Wild Wing in getting the morning of fitness kicked off by speaking to the students about the importance of leadership and healthy choices and how the day's activities were a chance to focus on doing their personal best.

There were nearly 175 volunteers on hand to record each of the participants' results, including Ducks staff, Ducks Die Hards booster club members and education and community partners such as UC Irvine, Cal State Fullerton, Azusa Pacific University and the University of La Verne. All documented results from the five assessments were forwarded to the schools.

Raymond Temple Elementary in Buena Park has been a part of Captain's Challenge since the program's inception, and fifth grade teacher Kelly Calvert says the students look forward to participating each year.

"The kids love it because they can be Captain for a day, and it helps with character development plus their physical strength," Calvert said. "It's just enhanced the program that we already do. The Ducks do a fabulous job in supporting us teachers in promoting kids fitness and health."

Robert M. Pyles STEM Academy in Stanton is also in their first year using the Captain's Challenge program, and teacher Stephanie Caldwell was able to incorporate the curriculum across all of the school's fifth grade classrooms, a move which has already seen positive results.

"The kids have been super motivated and excited," Caldwell said. "They really loved being the Captain and wearing the stickers. It's great for them to see other adults tell them that exercise is important and that taking pride in yourself is important. I'm so pleased that the Ducks have become a role model in showing kids not only leadership but physical fitness as well."

Several of Caldwell's students were enthusiastic about the program from the start.

"I've learned that it's important to keep your heart healthy," said 10-year old Omar. "I felt proud to be the Captain. It's important to treat your classmates as well as you treat yourself."

"I was nervous (about being Captain for the day), but I learned that everyone has to stick together," said Omar's classmate, Leslie. "I think it's very healthy for everyone to exercise a lot and not just watch TV."

Once the students completed the five assessments, they took a lunch break and had the chance to play some street hockey. The day wrapped up with closing ceremonies, where the kids were congratulated for their perseverance and some lucky attendees won raffle prizes, including shoes from New Balance, Microsoft gift cards, fitness watches and Anaheim Ducks signed memorabilia.

Even in their first year as a participant, Harrison acknowledged the tangible results from Captain's Challenge seen at Orange Grove, thanks to the Ducks and a program that supports physical fitness and leadership development in students.

"This makes it real," Harrison said. "They wore their Captain's stickers with pride. It's become bigger than the sum of its parts for these kids. When you can actually apply it to sporting events and communities, that's what makes the real difference."

For more information on Captain's Challenge and the Anaheim Ducks S.C.O.R.E. Program, visit

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