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By Ellen Ormsby
If only we had more Dr. Andy Baldwins in the world.
Led by Dr. Andy Baldwin, a team of riders (including myself) set off on October 4th from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to raise awareness of the serious health risks associated with childhood obesity. The plan was to bike a total of 416 miles across the state of PA from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia and highlight the importance of physical activity and good nutrition as a solution for childhood obesity. As a Navy medical doctor and an advocate for healthy lifestyles, Dr. Baldwin assists the Surgeon General with a national program to combat childhood obesity. He speaks directly to students to educate, inspire, and empower our future generation to lead healthier lifestyles. The Cross PA health ride was an opportunity for Dr. Baldwin to return to his home state, a native of Lancaster, and not only to “talk the talk” but ”walk the walk” (or “bike the bike” as Andy would say).
Our team rode an average of 70 miles a day and participated in health assemblies at various schools selected by the Penn State Hershey Center for Nutrition & Activity Promotion. We were warmly welcomed by Administrators, Superintendents, Teachers, students, school bands, parents, Mayors, City Councilmen, sponsoring coalitions, and local businesses. Each school organized a unique health fair featuring a presentation from Dr. Baldwin. He shared simple messages the students could relate to regarding the importance of eating healthy — good nutrition — and 60 minutes of physical activity each day.
During the physical activity component of the presentation Andy and I led my favorite SPARK dance (5-6-7-8) to get everyone up and active. It was amazing to witness all students, principals, teachers, and members of the community moving together at one time.
My favorite moment was at the Everett Elementary School Assembly when Principal Shawn Kovac asked his students what special program they use in Physical Education class, and in one loud roar the students replied “SPARK!” Five years after the district initially implemented the SPARK program they were still sharing the power of SPARK with their students at Everett.
It was an amazing adventure for so many reasons and one of the best weeks of my life. The scenery in Pennsylvania was truly breathtaking and captured in my memory forever. I was pleased to bring the SPARK program to each of these schools knowing that Dr. Baldwin’s mission would continue each time one of the Physical Education teachers opened the pages of their new SPARK curriculum.
Although no one wanted the ride to end it concluded on Saturday, October 10th on the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum. We all felt like champions as we climbed the stairs made famous in the “Rocky” movie. We accomplished our goal of biking 416 miles, sharing our important message, and impacting more students than we’ll ever know.