Dr. Kate Heelan
Building Healthy Families program co-director

The fourth annual Nebraska Kids Fitness and Nutrition Day will bring more than 600 fourth graders from six Nebraska counties to the University of Nebraska at Kearney campus Friday, Sept. 14, according to Dr. Kate Heelan, event cofounder and director of the UNK Human Performance Laboratory.

Activities will take place from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. at Foster Field, Cushing Coliseum and the Health & Sports Center. When they arrive, students will be divided into two groups with one group focusing on physical activities while the second group works its way through the nutrition stations. After lunch, the groups switch activities for the afternoon.   

Among the physical activities planned are step aerobics, team-building, participating with members of the UNK baseball team, pedometer activities and the parachute. Meanwhile, nutrition stations will teach youth about energy balance, making health snacks, MyPyramid, and the importance of food safety and washing hands. 

“The primary purpose of the event is to open the eyes of young people to the ways physical activity and nutrition work together to maintain health,” Dr. Heelan said, adding, “We are dedicated to providing support to help schools achieve their school wellness goals.” 

Fourth grade students will come to the campus Friday from Alma, Elm Creek, Franklin, Gibbon, Holdrege, Kearney, Overton, Wilcox and Riverdale. Working with the students will be more than 130 UNK students, faculty and staff, many of whom are from the Department of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Leisure Studies. 

Nebraska Kids Fitness and Nutrition Day, which was created and developed by Dr. Heelan and Kaiti Roeder, director of nutrition education for the Nebraska Beef Council, is funded by the Nebraska Beef Council. The program has now been packaged into a standard curriculum, which other communities are now using.

For 2007, Dr. Heelan and Roeder have selected four additional Nebraska communities to host the event. As a result, more than 2,300 children will participate in the event this fall. Host communities, in addition to UNK/Kearney, include Hastings, McCook, Scottsbluff and Sidney.   

While the event is supported, in part, by a grant from the Nebraska Beef Council, additional support is provided by Two Rivers Public Health District, Valley Vending and UNK.

“The goal is to provide a fun, inspiring day for fourth grade students to interact with college students, staff and faculty to learn about the importance of energy balance in a supportive, exciting environment,” Dr. Heelan concluded.