On Thursday, over 4,000 fourth- and fifth-grade students from the Elizabeth public schools filled the bleachers of the Thomas Dunn Sports Center. They were there to learn about the fitness program, led by Taneka Bowles, wife of Jets head coach and Elizabeth native Todd Bowles, challenges that challenges students to get 60 minutes of activity every day over a four-week period.
"One of our main pillars is fighting childhood obesity through the PLAY 60 Program," said Jesse Linder, Jets director of community relations. "It's been an epidemic. Our goal is to help reverse that trend where we can find kids more healthy and active every single year. "This is the future of our country and communities and we really think that this is the place we need to be."
The students were treated to a presentation introducing them to the program, a Jets backpack and a game planner to help track their fitness. Jets Flight Crew Cheerleaders and Jets Legend Tony Richardson were also in attendance.
"When you look at the statistics, they are staggering," Taneka said of the childhood obesity epidemic. "We've always wanted to be involved in the PLAY 60 program because our two older boys participated in it. When we came back to Elizabeth we looked at this as the perfect opportunity to give back to Todd's hometown and to the kids."
The kickoff also happened to take place in the same gymnasium that drapes the Jets head coach's name and number along its rafters.
"I was actually cheering a lot louder a few minutes ago because School 13 just won the challenge, and that's actually the same elementary school that Todd went to," Taneka said.
Todd Bowles made an appearance via video encouraging the students to participate in the program and strive to be their best.
"It doesn't get any better than this," said Richardson, the former Jets fullback. "These kids can look and say 'Hey, there's Todd Bowles' jersey on the wall, this is where he went to school, this is the same playground he played in, and if he can do it then I can do it as well.' "
Jets Kickoff PLAY 60 Program Equipped by Modell's with Elizabeth Public Schools