Students in a sea of red kick off Challenge

300 students in a sea of red kick off the Independent Health Foundation’s Fitness for Kids Challenge at Buffalo Zoo

BUFFALO, N.Y. (October 6, 2011) - More than 300 area students Thursday participated in a pep rally, danced and completed a healthy activity scavenger hunt to kick off the Independent Health Foundation’s Fitness for Kids Challenge at the Buffalo Zoo.

Students from Pinnacle Charter School and Waterfront Elementary School, both in Buffalo, and Our Lady of Pompeii School in Lancaster were a sea of red shirts at the Zoo as they committed to take the Challenge to be healthy and stay active.


The health and wellness initiative, now in its fourth year, is offered to elementary school-aged children throughout Western New York and aims to bend the increasing trend of Type 2 diabetes and obesity in youth by encouraging them to engage in fitness activities and make healthy food choices. This year’s Challenge starts today (Oct. 6, 2011) and runs through April 28, 2012. In its first three years, more than 225,000 fitness activities have been completed and 100,000 youth have been reached in approximately 200 schools throughout Western New York. Participants log fitness activities and submit completed trackers to become eligible for monthly prizes. Nearly 30,000 activity trackers have been submitted with 75 percent of the students completed at least three activity trackers.

“The Fitness for Kids Challenge has made an impressive impact on the youth in our community in three short years,” said Michael W. Cropp, M.D., president and chief executive officer, Independent Health. “Western New York must continue to make progress toward improving the health and wellness of our community by engaging in collaborative initiatives that improve the quality of health care and reduce cost. We all have a role to play in creating a culture of health in Western New York and encouraging our children to adopt exercise, fitness and proper nutrition at an early age is something we can all easily do.”

“The Independent Health Foundation’s Fitness for Kids Challenge encourages children to adopt a healthy and fit lifestyle at a young age to help prevent chronic illness later in life that can be debilitating and costly,” said Carrie Meyer, executive director, Independent Health Foundation. “We have a powerful message to instill in our children. It is our hope that this program will plant the seeds for a lifelong commitment to health at a young age to help stop the increase of Type 2 diabetes and obesity that is prevalent throughout our region and the country. Engaging children in this important initiative is a major step toward improving the long-term health and wellness of our community.”

“The Fitness for Kids Challenge helps young people in our community become stronger, healthier and more active,” said Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown. “I encourage youth in Buffalo and throughout Western New York to take the Fitness for Kids Challenge and adopt a healthy lifestyle.”

The fitness program also includes grants, which are awarded to schools with the highest level of participation to be used for health and fitness initiatives. Since the start of the program, $33,000 in grant money has been awarded to more than 30 schools. School winners have purchased equipment for an outdoor training circuit, sports equipment and built an outdoor basketball court.

“Our school has truly embraced this program and we’re grateful to the Independent Health Foundation for bringing this valuable initiative to our students,” said Jane Quiram, athletic director at Our Lady of Pompeii, a three-time grant winner. “Learning to be healthy and active at a young age is a valuable message all of our young people should hear. We encourage other schools to get involved in this program so we can all see the future benefit of this program as a healthier community.”

The Fitness for Kids Challenge Crew also is back for another year. Log on to to see what Jake, Tara, Rachel, Marco and Emily are up to. You’ll also discover fun ideas on staying active, learn how to eat right and find healthy recipes. The Fitness for Kids Challenge includes education, promotion, rewards, incentives, a school competition, and community wide events. Schools with the highest level of participation are eligible for grant awards to enhance their health and wellness programs.

Go to to follow the Crew’s activities, register a school and print out an activity tracker. For more information, call Independent Health Foundation at 716-635-4959.

Established in 1992, the Independent Health Foundation works to improve the health and well being of Western New York residents through awareness, prevention, education and other programs focused on community health priorities. For more information on the Foundation’s activities, visit