As a reward for their efforts in the Fall Play 60 Challenge, 550 students at Central Middle School in Euclid enjoyed a visit from the Cleveland Browns on Tuesday.
From participating in physical-education classes to walking to and from school, the 550 students at Central Middle School logged 2,857,246 minutes of physical activity in the six-week Fall Challenge.
“The whole challenge is designed for students in local schools to log their minutes of activity to create a path for a healthier lifestyle. The teachers are the ones who rally behind the scenes to get their schools and classes signed up,” said Jenner Tekancic, director of community relations for the Browns. “We understand students who get 60 minutes of activity a day not only perform well in the classroom, but also, they’re energized throughout the day. When it’s time to do homework, they can sit down and really focus on the schoolwork ahead of them.”
Central Middle School’s efforts to get their students physically active were the idea of John Yuha, the physical-education teacher for the sixth, seventh and eighth-grade students. Previously, he served as the gym teacher at Forest Park Elementary, and led their school to multiple grand-prize wins in the Browns’ Play 60 Challenges.
“Through the Play 60 Challenge here at Central Middle School, he motivated and excited the entire school about Play 60,” Tekancic said. “We found out that when schools sign up, sometimes, it’s just a couple classes that have certain teachers that really embrace it, and he made a remarkable difference by having his entire school participate.
“He joined with school leaders to internally rally the students and make sure every single student in the school was participating in the challenge. That’s how the difference was made this year.”
Mike Mennel, principal at Central Middle School, added, “This is an awesome way to celebrate for our kids. We really pushed getting our kids physically fit this year, getting them involved in the program, logging their minutes. I think it’s important that students understand that hard work pays off.”
Yuha has been leading students in the Browns’ Play 60 Challenges for the last five years, and the biggest payoff to him was watching the children celebrate with several of the Browns’ players Tuesday, including defensive backs
“This is a great experience and to see a smile on the kids’ faces when the players came in, that was priceless,” Yuha said. “That’s the whole reason why I do this.
“Before the students came, I had a meeting with all of the teachers to see if they still wanted to do it. They were all into it. They wanted to do it, and when it started, we had a big assembly with the students. They were all involved and excited about it. They just took control, and every day, they were logging the minutes. It was a really great experience for everybody.”
The Browns’ players enjoyed spending the day with the students, as it served as a reminder of when they were young.
“I went to a school just like this, and to see these kids exercising and being excited about it means a lot,” Bademosi said. “It’s really important. Nutrition, health and wellness should be a big part of everybody’s lives. It makes you happier and leads to a better lifestyle all around. Sending that message to the kids is really important to us.”
Aubrey added, “Just watching these kids enjoy moving around, just like me and my family, is really good to see. I looked up to other people who did this, so just being out here and being one of the guys that these kids look up to is really something.”
Through the Browns’ Fall Play 60 Challenge, nearly 2,000 middle-school students from the greater Cleveland area logged more than 6.6 million minutes of physical activity. Combined with the Spring Challenge, students in Cleveland registered more than 11.1 million minutes of activity.
The Browns PLAY 60 Challenge, in partnership with the American Heart Association and in association with Cleveland Clinic; Medical Mutual; and American Dairy Association Mideast and Fuel Up to PLAY 60 is a six-week program for seventh- and eighth-grade students that provides schools additional opportunities to help students be active and healthy throughout the school day. Schools participating in the most recent challenge were eligible for a chance to win Browns prizes, including invitations to the Browns-Jaguars game (Dec. 1) for top student participants, by visiting clevelandbrowns.com/community/play-60.html.