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Going the Distance

District elementary students kiss the school year goodbye with some serious fun

June 1, 2012
By BRANDON L. SUMMERS, , Messenger News

Fort Dodge Community School District's elementary students gathered at Dodger Stadium Friday for the year-end THRIVE Go the Distance Day.

"Go the Distance Day is to celebrate all of the efforts and all the work we do in an effort to be healthy throughout the year," Sarah Marsh, youth wellness coordinator, said.

Hundreds of students filled the football field on the last day of school to participate in games and exercise to celebrate the end of the year.

Article Photos

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Ethan Recker, a Cooper Elementary School fourth-grader, passes a hoop down a line of classmates Friday morning during the annual THRIVE Go the Distance Day at Dodger Stadium. At left, Nathanial Madden plans his method of attack. For more photos, go to

Students were divided by school and grade for a series of games. For each game, the schools received points. First, the students, standing in place, warmed up by pretending they were walking in thick pudding, next pretending they were being chased by a bear, then walking through gelatin, and pretended they were painting the walls with their hair.

"How would paint the wall using your head?" Matt Hanson, youth wellness coordinator, called out. "Paint the walls. Get the top corners. The bottom corners. Keep painting that wall until it's all painted."

Last, the students hopped and jumped like they were "popcorn popping." With the students warmed up and their hearts pumping, the games began.

Feelhaver Elementary was first given a special sportsmanship award for exceptional honesty and character during the THRIVE Strides challenges.

"When Feelhaver was doing their laps this year, they were so honest about how many laps they did and how many punches they deserved. Feelhaver, we really appreciated your honesty," Marsh said.

Along with the award, Feelhaver was given five points, putting the school in the lead.

For the first game, the classes in their rows formed human chains, linking arms to pass along a hula hoop without breaking the chain. Finishing, the student at the end of the chain had to deliver the hoop to their THRIVE staff member. Next, the students played the telephone game, passing along a healthy message. Again, the last person in line had to race to the THRIVE staff member and deliver the message. Last, the students had to work together to collect and assemble four pieces to form a My Plate chart.

"Why do we have something called My Plate? Because it teaches us how to eat healthy at every meal, right? In the telephone message that we just had, half of your plate should be what?" Marsh called out.

The students all shouted, "Fruits and vegetables."

The last games were for the students' entertainment, a principals challenge. The five principals took the stage: Mike Woodall, Butler Elementary; Marlene Johnson, Cooper Elementary; Pat Reding, Duncombe Elementary; Bruce Hartley, Riverside Elementary; and Ryan Flaherty, representing Feelhaver Elementary.

For their first challenge, the principals had to collect balloons along the stadium rows, bring them back, pop them by sitting on them, and build a My Plate graph. They then had bring it up to Marsh, at the top row. Johnson assembled hers first, but Woodall chased her down, racing up the bleachers to get his in first.

Woodall, Hartley and Flaherty played the next game. Each had a wastebasket cinched to his waist behind them. They had to squat down to a bucket of balls, and see how many each could toss over his shoulder and into his basket in a time limit. Woodall won, with a juggler's flair, followed by Hartley and then Flaherty.

Woodall threw his fist into the air triumphantly, while his students cheered, "Woodall. Woodall. Woodall."

With 30 points each, Feelhaver and Butler had taken the lead. A face-off was held between principals Flaherty and Woodall in the form of a hula hoop competition. Flaherty easily defeated Woodall, keeping his hoop going while Woodall struggled to keep his aloft.

Flaherty returned to his students, bringing with him the shining THRIVE Go the Distance Day trophy. The event ended with the students taking a lap around the Dodger Stadium track and receiving a bottle of water.

Marsh said she personally enjoys the physical fitness day.

"They get so excited about this event, and there's nothing better than a beautiful, sunshiny day with all the elementary schools celebrating being healthy," she said.

Health is important, Marsh said.

"We want to prevent diseases," she said. "We spend so much money taking care of and treating diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure. We just want to prevent it, and we want to start at a young age and teach children at a young age how they prevent it by being healthy and active."



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