What do you get when you put competitive college hockey players on the ice with elementary students? Races, chases, and a whole lot of smiling faces.
Just ask the UAA Seawolf hockey players who skated during an O’Malley Elementary School assembly this week in Anchorage to promote the Spring Healthy Futures Challenge.
First, they played goalie against first-graders on the gym stage and then they laced up their skates to hit the ice rink with fifth-graders who had high participation in past Healthy Futures Challenges.
At least one Seawolf said he hadn’t been on an outdoor rink in years, let alone played a game of Sharks and Minnows. The experience made him smile. Joining children on skates, dancing or playing ball supports their need for 60 minutes of physical activity every day and fulfills our own need for playfulness, too.
“Doing these events reminds us of how much fun play can be,” said Ann Potempa, program director for Play Every Day, a program of the Department of Health and Social Services. “Seeing kids of all ages being active, whether by ice skating or making an obstacle course in school or at home, shows how easy and joyful it is to play."
The Healthy Futures Challenge, the signature program of the nonprofit Alaska Sports Hall of Fame, encourages physical activity in youth by providing incentives for schools and students to promote and track weekly activity. Play Every Day supports the program’s administration and promotes participation through statewide messages and events.
The next kickoff event takes place next week in Fairbanks when Team Alaska Athletes join a school assembly at Woodriver Elementary School to celebrate the Challenge and the upcoming Arctic Winter Games.
An estimated 17,500 students from elementary schools across Alaska are expected to participate in the Challenge this spring. Healthy Futures and Play Every Day join multiple partners in engaging youth in play to help them maintain healthy weights and sustain healthy habits throughout their lives.