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by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres
Paul Gaustad (photo: Rick Stewart)
Louise Gaustad, mother of Buffalo Sabres forward Paul Gaustad and a physical education teacher in Lake Oswego, Ore., has engaged first and second-grade students from Oak Creek Elementary School in a virtual cross-country walk from Lake Oswego to Buffalo, N.Y.   Now, at the suggestion of her son, Paul, 100 first graders from Buffalo Public School 89 - the Dr. Lydia T. Wright School of Excellence - are counting their steps to complete a virtual walk to Oregon, too.

Video: Paul Gaustad Highlights

Louise explains: “When Paul and I discussed the idea of Oregon students getting exercise by virtually walking to a Buffalo Sabres game, he really wanted a Buffalo school to do a return ‘walk’ to Oregon. The Buffalo Sabres and BlueCross BlueShield put us in touch with the principal of the Dr. Lydia T. Wright School of Excellence and the walks took off from there.”
“It’s great to see kids from two different parts of the country teaming together on a project that encourages them to be active and to set goals. The best part for me was seeing how much fun the kids had in the process,” said Paul Gaustad.
The virtual walks - dubbed “Shuffle Off to Buffalo” and “Here We Go to Lake Oswego” - were facilitated by the Buffalo Sabres and are sponsored by BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York, corporate support partner of the Dr. Lydia T. Wright School of Excellence and the health plan provider of the Buffalo Sabres. BlueCross BlueShield supplied pedometers so students can track their progress.
The Oregon students began on October 1 and finished by Thanksgiving, taking four million steps - as well as one million swim strokes to symbolize the distance to cross the Great Lakes. Buffalo students began on October 15 and anticipate finishing by the Christmas holiday.  Mary Jo Conrad, principal of PS 89, said, “Louise Gaustad and I began e-mailing each other about the students’ progress and charting the landmarks and states our students were virtually visiting. This program started with a goal of increasing physical exercise, grew to include geography lessons and ultimately became a cross-country friendship between our schools.”
The two women finally met at Buffalo Sabres game just before Thanksgiving when Mrs. Gaustad was visiting Buffalo, and exchanged souvenir items for each other’s schools. On November 29, Paul Gaustad will visit the Dr. Lydia T. Wright School of Excellence in Buffalo to celebrate the virtual walks and encourage the students to continue exercising.
“The health of our students is an important priority in the Buffalo Public School District.  I’m proud of this unique partnership that will encourage physical fitness and civic responsibilities. I’d like to thank Louise Gaustad, Paul Gaustad, the Buffalo Sabres, BlueCross Blue Shield, and students, teachers, and administrators at the Dr. Lydia T. Wright School of Excellence for their participation and partnership that spans our great nation,” said Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent, Dr. James Williams.
“At BlueCross BlueShield, we strongly advocate our Walking Works program, which encourages adults to take more steps every day,” said BlueCross BlueShield Chief Medical Officer Jay Pomerantz, MD. “What's amazing is that these children have taken on a significant physical challenge at a very young age.  Everyone involved should be congratulated for this innovative approach that has strengthened body and mind.”
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