MARYVILLE, Mo. — Four hundred and fifty third- and fourth-grade students from throughout Nodaway County jumped over each other, gave each other high fives while horizontal and experienced healthy exercises at Friday’s Hy-Vee KidsFit event held at the Hughes Fieldhouse at Northwest Missouri State University.

In a perfect example of a university and community partnership, the event created an energetic and lively look at healthy eating and exercise habits for students from throughout the county.

“What we like to do is partner with our schools in our town and county and surrounding areas just to raise awareness for kids being more healthy, more active,” said Nate Jaster, Maryville Hy-Vee store director. “Here we’re fortunate enough because Northwest, they’re a true partner with it. Their school of education is as excited as Hy-Vee is about it and they’ve been very involved with it since the very beginning putting this together.”

Hy-Vee has a personal trainer, Daira Driftmier, who leads these events throughout Hy-Vee’s region. Since beginning the program four years ago, she said the program has been given for just over 300,000 children in all eight states of the region.

“This is the second event we’ve had in Maryville,” said Driftmier. “We’ve come a long way. We’re very driven into seeing the benefit of improving. As those kids get older it’s easier to make those good choices. So we want to continue that repetition, not only in their school and with big events like this, but giving the students (and) the parents the tools through Hy-Vee KidsFit Club.”

The club is a way for parents to help their children continue learning and practicing healthy eating and exercise habits. The club offers a phone app and a monthly newsletter which offers playing, eating and learning challenges. When children complete them, they can return to the store for prizes. Some of those include: lanyards, water bottles, pop sockets and sunglasses.

“I love this. This is my passion,” Driftmier said. “I see it after having my own kids — this is my third (she directed to her belly) — that you need people in your community that care about kids. The more and more I learn, teachers need that support in schools.”

A trainer in the fitness industry for more than 15 years, Driftmier said she’s trained a lot of adults who struggle with making choices, because they didn’t learn basic healthy principles.

“If we don’t educate, if the kids don’t feel educated, how are we preparing them for adulthood?” asked Driftmier. “This is a platform that makes the healthy choice fun, conversational and nonthreatening. I love sports, but not everyone plays sports. Some students might never have a great opportunity to have fun moving their body. That’s what we’re doing today.”

She said partnering with Northwest Missouri State University has been great.

“If an elementary student can set foot on a college campus, they’re more likely to see themselves going to college,” she said. “It’s great to have a university that sees the benefit in bringing all these kids here today.”

Some of the goals for the event include giving students ideas for free health and physical fitness choices children can make throughout the summer.

“That curriculum is vital,” said Tim Wall, Northwest School of Education dean and director of teacher education. “We also wanted to give them an opportunity to come together as a community. … We wanted to get students to know a little bit about things they can do to help their health.”

Excited about the event, Wall said it’s an amazing community partnership that ties into Hy-Vee’s corporate mission.

“Nate Jaster at Maryville Hy-Vee, he is so incredible,” said Wall. “His work made this happen.”

Third- and fourth-graders from nearly every school in Nodaway County received a T-shirt and a healthy lunch from Hy-Vee.

“We’ve been planning this for several months,” said Wall. “We thought about having it outside, kind of glad the Hughes Fieldhouse is here. … I’m happy about that public/private partnership, it’s just one of many between the university and the community. This is exactly what we hoped for.”

He hopes the local event will become a part of the regular rotation for Hy-Vee’s schedule.

During the event, university cheerleaders and volunteers from the school of education held signs for the various schools attending the event and met students as they entered the fieldhouse.

“This is a perfect example of what we call profession-based learning,” said Wall. “This is really an event that allows them to see what community is. It’s all coming together.”

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