Some in sweatbands, some in bandanas and some in their best matching exercise gear, the students of Hitchcock County Elementary School sat in their lines on the concrete in front of the playground as their principal, Mike Tines, told the story behind the school’s new exercise equipment and curriculum.

In addition to the students, community members were gathered at the school on Monday, Oct. 10 for a ribbon cutting ceremony celebrating the school’s new fit pit, made possible by an $18,000 sponsorship from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska (BCBSNE) through Project Fit America, a charity that provides physical education equipment and curriculum to schools across the country.

“Our community sponsorships throughout the state are all about lifting up the health and wellness of all Nebraskans,” said Kathy Nellor, health transformation leader at BCBSNE, in a speech during the ceremony. “We know this program will help teach all the students here how to live an active lifestyle as well as help them understand the importance of staying active for their overall well-being.”

Delivered in the summer by Project Fit America and installed by local volunteers, the equipment is designed to help students build strength and improve flexibility, cross-lateral coordination and cardiovascular health.

Students showed off the new equipment, and their experience with it, with push-ups, pull-ups, bear crawls, around the worlds, which involve students making their way around the outside of the horizontal bars, and even vaults. Plus, a few students shared their thoughts on the new playground options.

“It is known that exercise can be a mood changer,” said Jaylee Costillo, a student at Hitchcock County Elementary, during the ceremony. “With Project Fit, we have many alternatives to exercise. My favorite is around the world. What a good way to boost my confidence when I improve in practice. All my friends like this addition to the playground.”

In addition to the outdoor fit pit, BCBSNE’s sponsorship also provided the school with indoor physical education equipment and curriculum.

“This grant goes far beyond just installing playground equipment,” said Nellor. “We go in and really show these schools how to get their students involved and excited about using the equipment to stay active and healthy.”

Hitchcock County Elementary is the eighth Nebraska school since 2013 to receive equipment and curriculum from BCBSNE and Project Fit America.

“After missing a few years due to COVID-19, we are so excited to be back providing students across Nebraska with crucial physical education resources,” said Nellor. “I can’t wait to see what the future holds for this partnership and which community we get to visit next.”

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