Bengals players award grant to school, work out with students

Physical fitness and fun can and should go hand-in-hand.

That was the message Tuesday at Heritage Elementary School as four Cincinnati Bengals stopped by to award a $10,000 grant as part of NFL PLAY 60 Super School Contest on behalf of the NFL, the Bengals and Time Warner Cable.

Bengals Giovani Bernard, Wallace Gilberry, Marvin Jones and Cedric Peerman also led 50 students in fitness activities as part of the NFL PLAY 60 youth health and wellness campaign, which is aimed at helping children get 60 minutes of exercise a day.

“I think it’s an honor to get to work out with the Bengals,” said 11-year-old sixth-grader Noah Babcock after running an obstacle course for Bernard. “This is a once-in-a-life time opportunity. I don’t think I’ll get a chance to do it again.”

The students got that opportunity thanks to PTA co-presidents Jackie Eckles and Laurice Hootman, who worked with Principal Missy Alexander to answer essay questions on how the school planned to show its NFL team pride, incorporate football into lesson plans in various subjects and teach students the importance of physical education and nutrition.

Eckles and Hootman said they were excited not only about the grant helping the school reach the halfway mark toward the $40,000 needed to replace its worn and outdated playground, but for students to have the opportunity to meet and workout with Bengals players, cheerleaders and mascot Who Dey.

“It’s something they’ll remember for all of their school years here at Lakota,” Hootman said.

In addition to the grant, the NFL also donated the footballs, orange cones, jump ropes, weights and exercise mats used at Tuesday’s physical education class.

Peerman, a Bengals running back, said it was great getting to work out with the students.

“As NFL players, we have to realize that we all have a platform, especially with younger people. They look up to us,” Peerman said. “We’re all obligated … to present a positive lifestyle to people. I think that’s very important and something that we can’t take lightly.”

Gilberry, a Bengals defensive end, said the importance of daily exercise factored into his life from a young age.

“I’m from the country, so we kind of stayed outside, when the sun came up, you were outside,” Gilberry said. “I credit that to how I am today because there’s nothing lazy about me. I approach work and business the same way. Being able to instill that in these kids at this age, it definitely will take them a long way.”

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