By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY — Sept. 13 was a cool, windy morning, threatening rain, but the students at St. Patrick’s School warmed up by walking and running along a new fitness trail on the school grounds.
Two years in the making, the trail circles around the grounds behind the school. That morning, Father Justin Hoye, pastor of St. Patrick’s Church, teachers, students, parents and former Kansas City Chief’s nose tackle Ken (Fuzzy) Kremer, gathered at the trail’s start for the official ribbon cutting and blessing ceremony.
Julie Hess, principal of St. Patrick’s looked back over the project’s two years. Back in 2010, she recalled, Julie Blackwell, the school’s beloved science teacher, suddenly died from an undiagnosed aortic aneurism. Faculty and staff wanted to find a way to help their students keep strong hearts through fitness, in her memory.
St. Patrick’s P.E. teacher and Chief’s fan, Lema Easley, saw a contest featured on the NFL’s Play 60 website that got her immediately excited. Play 60 is the NFL’s campaign to encourage children and adolescents to be active for at least 60 minutes a day to help reverse the trend of childhood obesity. The winner of the contest, called “Back to Football Friday,” would receive a check for $10,000 from the NFL team in their city or region to be used toward a fitness commitment — in St. Patrick’s case, to design and build a fitness trail. The more Easley thought about it, the more excited she became, and her excitement was contagious.
Hess, Easley and several other faculty members went to a sports lab at Arrowhead Stadium. “It was a Red Friday event,” Easley said. (Red Fridays are Fridays before Chief’s home games when fans dress in red or Chiefs apparel in support of the team.) There was fitness tailgating: cars backed around the field with their trunks open. Each trunk or storage area was dedicated to fitness, she said. There were fitness related activities on the field, football of course, punt, pass and kick, jumping through hoops and, ways to exercise the mind, including Math games of scoring, NFL geography (where does your favorite team play?) as well as nutrition and first aid booths.
Impressed and even more excited about the possibility of winning, St. Patrick’s School entered the Play 60 School Contest.
Easley and fellow faculty members, staff, parents and students put together a fitness challenge and physical education program, including a running lab, a salad bar, and student-made informational posters about fitness, performance, and nutrition. Photographs were taken for their entry, one of more than 150 entries submitted.
Imagine the surprise when members of the Kansas City Chiefs Rookie Squad showed up at St. Patrick’s and held the “Ultimate P.E. Class,” with the students. Hess recalled that during their visit, Chiefs CEO Mark Donovan presented her with a check for $10,000 to be used toward the construction of a walking trail on the campus. They had won!
Unfortunately, after receiving several bids that exceeded the amount of the check, the walking trail project had to be tabled, Hess said.
Fast forward one year. School had begun and the walking trail project was still tabled. Under the leadership of Lisa Angotti and Joyce Murray, the St. Patrick’s School Board rallied their forces. They were able to obtain “the right bid,” Hess said, and follow through with the building of the trail.
It took some time, but by the start of school this past August, it was ready to use. The school calendar was marked for Sept. 13, the official blessing and ribbon cutting day. That morning, students dressed in red t-shirts, red polo shirts and Chiefs jerseys stood respectfully quiet on the trail while Father Hoye blessed it. Then the ribbon was stretched across the start of the trail, with “Fuzzy” Kremer, Hess, Joyce Murray, Father Hoye and a student holding the ribbon while Lema Easley and Lisa Angotti wielded big scissors to cut it.
Kremer joined the kids in a ceremonial walk (that turned into a race for many) on the trail. He told The Catholic Key that he was impressed by the effort and hard work the faculty, staff, parents and students at St. Patrick’s School had put into entering and winning the Play 60 contest and getting the trail constructed and ready to use. “It was just like playing football with the Chiefs, a collaborative effort,” he said.
Hess called the trail “a labor of love and a terrific example” of the school community working together to benefit the students.
The kids called it, “fun,” “cool” and “wow!”
After school hours, on weekends and during vacations, the walking trail is open to school neighbors who wish to use it.