New York Jets cornerback Kyle Wilson led a joint-school assembly this morning at Ridgedale Middle School in Florham Park, N.J., as part of the Jets Play 60 Challenge encouraging kids to spend at least one hour every day on some sort of physical activity.
About 400 sixth-grade students and their teachers from Holy Family School, Harding School, Madison Junior School and St. Vincent the Martyr School joined the Ridgedale students and staff in packing the auditorium to listen to the fourth-year Jet.
"Kids remember events and things like this, so it's big," Wilson said. "I definitely didn't have anything like this growing up, but I think these kids are taking advantage of it."
All children were given their own "game planners" in which they will log all of their physical activity throughout the day for the next four weeks. The goal is to spend at least 30 minutes during the school day doing something active and at least 30 minutes after school doing the same. Throwing a football, going for a run, shooting hoops or even walking a dog are all acceptable ways to accumulate the minimum of 60 minutes per day.
Every student who accomplishes the hour-per-day benchmark will have a chance to win a weekly prize, and everyone who completes the four-week challenge will receive a Jets hat and a certificate signed by Kyle Wilson. Additionally, one boy and one girl from each school will be randomly selected to lead the Jets out of the tunnel as the team takes on the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, Dec. 1, at MetLife Stadium.
It might seem like just fun and games, but these activities address a very serious issue: childhood obesity.
American kids and teens today are about three times more likely to be overweight or obese than kids in the early Sixties, and the unhealthy weight has been linked to not just physical problems but psychological and social drawbacks as well.
The NFL and the American Heart Association teamed up to create the NFL PLAY 60 Challenge to combat childhood obesity. The New York Jets have been involved in the program for six years, and Wilson has served as a team representative for this annual assembly in each of his four seasons in the league.
"Any time you get a chance to help out some children," he said, "I think it's big for a celebrity or a role model to continue to do that."
Kyle spoke about his own strategies for taking care of his body (including eating fruit with every meal) before fielding a number of questions from the audience, ranging from the names of his dogs (Tiger and Pink, for those wondering) to his reason for cutting off the dreadlocks a few months ago (he got tired of taking care of them after eight years).
The students were then quizzed on everything they had heard and received prizes such as footballs, hats and yearbooks signed on the spot by the Jets' former first-round draft choice, who said he was impressed by the kids' attention to detail and memory in answering all of the questions nearly flawlessly.
"They're full of energy and they're just all in," Wilson said. "It's getting bigger and better each year."
His favorite part of the program is coming back in a few weeks and interacting with the kids. "They're just having such a great time and they're telling me all of the stuff they've done to do their fitness and how long they've been doing it, so it's just a great feeling and I enjoy helping them out."