Grant to provide outdoor exercise equipment, improved playground surface at Ariton Elementary

Dr. Candy Howard-Shaughnessy, Ariton Elementary physical education teacher Starla Cherry and Ariton student display the Be Healthy Schools grant check

Dr. Candy Howard-Shaughnessy, Ariton Elementary physical education teacher Starla Cherry and Ariton student display the Be Healthy Schools grant check

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama officials presented Troy University and Ariton Elementary School officials with a $10,000 Be Healthy Schools grant last week during a ceremony at the school.

The grant, secured by Drs. Candice Howard-Shaughnessy and Brandon Sluder of the University’s Department of Kinesiology and Health Promotion along with Starla Cherry of Ariton Elementary, will be used to improve the outdoor physical education area by including fitness equipment and to repair the current asphalt surface used by classes for outdoor activities.

“Out of the more than 100 applications received this year, Ariton Elementary was one of the schools that came out on top,” said Jeff Adams, community relations manager. “We are so pleased to be able present this check in the amount of $10,000 to help Ariton Elementary students be able to live healthy lifestyles.”

Dr. Howard-Shaughnessy said the grant will significantly improve the school’s ability to offer outdoor activities for students.

“Starla Cherry is one of my former students, and we were discussing her limited space for physical education classes at the school,” Dr. Howard-Shaughnessy said. “We began to talk about the grant and I knew that it would fit in well with her current curriculum and activities. We literally sat at my kitchen table for a day and wrote the grant application. The funds will be used to repair a playground surface that is currently in disrepair, and provide some additional outdoor equipment such as basketball goals and other fitness equipment.”

Cherry, a physical education teacher at the school and a TROY alumna, expressed gratitude to Blue Cross Blue Shield and Troy University for helping make the grant a reality.

“This grant will be used to redo our playground and make it a whole lot better place to play and have activities for the students,” Cherry said. “This will help us put up new equipment and have different activities for students that we weren’t able to before. To receive this grant for $10,000 is truly a blessing.”

The grant was among the 27 awarded this year to schools serving students in grades kindergarten through six throughout the state, impacting more than 11,100 students. The grants help to fund the implementation of school-based health and wellness programs that emphasize increased exercise, nutrition education and parental involvement in schools. Since 2012, Blue Cross has awarded more than $1.5 million in 167 Be Healthy School grants statewide, benefitting more than 81,000 students.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama has insured Alabamians for more than 80 years, offering coverage plans to corporations, individuals and the senior market. The company dedicates time and resources through its foundation, its annual participation in United Way drives statewide, the National Walk @ Lunch and Alabama Walk @ School days and its annual Day of Caring.