08:57 AM

Five Rural Arizona Teachers Receive $25,000 for Childhood Obesity Programs

$5,000 grants will be used for new health initiatives, sporting goods equipment and building a greenhouse to grow vegetables

Five Arizona teachers and their schools each received a $5,000 grant to fund school programs that fight childhood obesity. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona awarded the five grants based on the winners’ exceptional execution of the 2017 Walk On! Challenge.

The Walk On! Challenge is a free month-long health and fitness challenge held each year in February. The program has reached nearly 330,000 elementary-aged children since it began 12 years ago and aims to motivate participants to incorporate healthy habits into their daily routines for a healthier lifestyle now and in the future.

An independent panel of educators reviewed the applications. Scoring is based on the participation level of students, an increased awareness of healthy choices, how teachers implemented the program in the classroom and plans for the grant money.

This year’s grant applications featured ideas to create a Student Wellness Team complete with a family pantry filled with healthy foods for families in need, improved breakfast programs, updating playground equipment, purchasing “Recess Kits” complete with new balls and jump ropes and building a greenhouse so students can grow their own produce.

“I am so thankful for the changes I see in my students because of the Walk On! Challenge,” said Brianna McLaughlin a teacher at LM Prince Elementary School in Tucson. “I am proud of how my students challenged themselves to meet their goals and share what they’ve learned with others in their lives. The Walk On! Challenge has become a permanent part of our curriculum, classroom and lives. We can’t wait to use our grant money to continue the healthy efforts of our students.”

This year’s $5,000 grant recipients were:

• Brianna McLaughlin at Prince Elementary School in Tucson

• Margaret Mander at Picacho Elementary School in Picacho

• Duane Yazzie at Tsehootsooi School in Fort Defiance

• Aaron Whiting at Taylor Intermediate School in Snowflake

• Trinka Hall at Canon School in Black Canyon City

Teachers from 205 schools around the state participated in this year’s Challenge reaching 23,000 fourth- and fifth-graders.

“The Walk On! Challenge is part of our healthy living umbrella known as Nourishing Arizona. The program gives students a fun way to practice living a healthy lifestyle while learning firsthand the importance of good nutrition and physical activity,” said Dr. Vishu Jhaveri, chief medical officer for BCBSAZ. “Our goal is to help children value their health and to recognize their own role in protecting it.”

For more information about Walk On!, grant criteria or the 5-2-1-0 daily goal, visit




About Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona (BCBSAZ) is committed to helping Arizonans get healthier faster and stay healthier longer. With a focus on connecting people with the care they need, BCBSAZ offers health insurance and related services to nearly 1.5 million customers.

BCBSAZ, a not-for-profit company, is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. The company employs nearly 1,500 people in its Phoenix, Chandler, Flagstaff and Tucson offices.

Through advanced clinical programs and community outreach, BCBSAZ is moving health forward. To learn more, visit