FHSU players help bring NFL Play 60 to Wilson
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
Caleb King was wearing popular colors to school one day last week.
The Wilson Elementary School kindergartner's Pittsburgh Steelers jersey matched the black and gold of Fort Hays State University football players on hand at Wilson to take part in an NFL Play 60 event.
Kindergartner Caden Yauch's Denver Broncos' T-shirt also was a favorite of one of the visitors, FHSU freshman Chris Hasenbalg from Byers, Colo.
"Like your shirt," Hasenbalg told Yauch as the two played catch on the Wilson playground.
Patty Weber doesn't care what color shirts the children wear, as long as they get out and be active.
In an effort to ward off child obesity, the NFL launched Play 60 five years ago as a national health and fitness campaign that encourages youth to be active for at least 60 minutes a day.
Weber, physical education teacher at Wilson and Lincoln elementary schools in Hays, has had her students participate in the Play 60 program for several years.
But this was the first time Weber had entered one of her schools in the program's Super School Contest that focuses on the areas of safety, nutrition and wellness.
One school in each NFL market, in addition to two at-large winners, will be named an NFL Play 60 Super School. That brings NFL players, cheerleaders and mascots to the winning schools, which each also will win $10,000 for their efforts.
"A parent brought the contest to my attention last year, but it was too late to get organized," said Weber, who got together with home and school members in the spring to plan this year's event.
Weber told students to wear a jersey or T-shirt of their favorite NFL team, or their Wilson spirit shirt, on Friday, the specified day the FHSU players were scheduled to visit.
Some stared in awe at 6-6, 245-pound Connor Farmer, a freshman tight end from Kansas City, Mo.
First-grader Brielle Bange showed football fans come in a variety of ways. Bange, dressed in an Indianapolis Colts T-shirt, enthusiastically cheered on a classmate.
"Go Dante, go Dante," she shouted as Dante Younker passed near-perfect spirals to Hasenbalg.
"We need to cheer for him," Bange told fellow students standing in line.
"I'm going to play football," Younker stated matter-of-factly.
"You mean when you grow up?" someone asked.
"No, now. I'm going to play flag football," he said in reference to the local Hays Recreation Commission program.
Wilson students and staff all got involved in the various competitions of the Super School Contest.
Students wrote essays about safety measures for football players, such as reasons for wearing a helmet.
Librarian Lynnette Armstrong looked up NFL trivia for the older students.
And teachers decorated their classroom doors.
Parents on Friday even had a tent set up with healthy snacks for tailgating at a football game.
Weber recorded all the results and will enter them into the contest, adding a description of the school's physical education environment as a whole.
"I want to win that $10,000," she said Friday, all decked out in Denver Broncos attire that won her the "crazy fan award" in the teacher/staff division. "We could do a lot of things with that."