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National Hockey League Player Helps School Kids “Stick to Fitness”

Denice Alexander is a Communications Manager for Kaiser Permanente and an advocate for programs that are devoted to ending poverty and violence. You can follow her on Twitter @ydalexander
denice.y.alexander@kp.org

San Jose Sharks Defenseman Brenden Dillon recently visited KIPP Heartwood Academy to teach kids about healthy living and launch a new program called Stick to Fitness. The program is designed to boost the health of middle school students with physical activity and healthy food.

“We’re here to take the kids through the program and encourage them to do the best they can,” said Dillon. “Anyone can play hockey and be good at it–and have fun.”

The five-week Stick to Fitness program incorporates street hockey skills into schools’ physical education classes. Each week students watch a DVD to learn new exercises and then use them in games and a weekly scrimmage. Each class tracks their progress and when they complete the program, every student receives a pedometer and jump rope to take home.

Kaiser Permanente partnered with the Sharks Foundation to create the program and donated equipment to participating schools. So far nearly 2,000 sixth-graders at 10 San Jose schools have experienced the program, and it’s proving popular with students and school staff alike.

“I have been in the world of education for nearly two decades and the Stick to Fitness program is one of the best I have encountered,” said Dr. Tony Cuevas, founding principal of the Downtown College Prep school that participated in the program in March. “The approach is student-centered with a developmental component that directly aligns with our P.E. and health standards. It’s also a really fun way of engaging with students in the 6th grade.”

Stick to Fitness complements Kaiser Permanente’s Thriving Schools initiative with lessons about nutrition and exercise. Mark Davies, M.D., physician at Kaiser Permanente and team physician for the Sharks, visited schools to teach students about eating fruits and vegetables as well as limiting screen time and avoiding sugary beverages.

“Something as simple as not having a soda every day and drinking good, healthy water can make a huge difference when it comes to childhood obesity and the general health of these kids,” said Davies.

It seems that the combination of new skills, new information and fun may be a power play when it comes to the fight against childhood obesity. Cuevas said that many of the children at Downtown College Prep have requested the start of a hockey team and constantly mention the Sharks’ visit.

Visit the Shark Foundation’s website to learn more about Stick to Fitness.

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