Nine years ago, the Fuel Up to Play 60 program began at Dundalk, Maryland’s Our Lady of Hope-St. Luke’s School thanks, to of all things, a television commercial.

That was when program advisor Ron Vida, home watching TV, saw that commercial and had an idea that would change the course of health and wellness programs for the children of Our Lady of Hope-St. Luke’s.

“A television commercial I saw for Fuel Up to Play 60 said to call for more information and to get involved,” Ron recalled. “The football stuff and the NFL tie, admittedly, was what first caught my attention. But then there was information about supporting your school and exercise for kids. Once we learned more, our eyes really opened up. It’s so much more than just football.”

And now, in these challenging times as the world deals with the COVID-19 pandemic, the lessons Ron and other Fuel Up to Play 60 advisors preach to students truly are about so much more than just football.

Ron is the Fuel Up to Play 60 program advisor at Our Lady of Hope-St Luke’s, which is home to students from Pre-K-8th grade, and he’s spearheaded his school’s involvement in the program since 2011 when it first became a Touchdown School, a special distinction bestowed upon schools that complete healthy eating and wellness challenges. The participating students are then rewarded with a trip to an NFL stadium for a day to take part in fun activities and interact with NFL players.

But now, the goal has shifted. With students home from school as we live in an environment of social distancing, the goal is to bring the Fuel Up to Play 60 lessons home and keep them in practice.

In his time leading our Lady of Hope-St. Luke’s Fuel Up to Play 60 efforts, Ron has seen student involvement grow as the school has taken part in countless initiatives and events. But looking past the fun activities and the football, he’s seen so much more.

“The program helps make healthy snacks more readily available for the students. And by having the healthy snacks available, it makes it easier for students to make healthy choices,” Ron said.

These lessons about healthy snacks can be practiced at home. Junk food can be an appealing option, especially under times of stress. But students who’ve made healthy snacks, like cheese and yogurt, a part of their normal regimen at school can not only bring that practice home for themselves, but also share it with the rest of his or her family.

“Every month at our school, we make a new healthy snack readily available. Sometimes it’s yogurt, sometimes it’s string cheese. And there is always milk involved. The milk is a huge part of it for the kids. And it all makes the kids want to ask questions about nutrients and what it takes to get energy from milk and dairy.”

“In fact, we started the breakfast program at our school because of Fuel Up to Play 60. That was something we never had before joining.”

One aspect of Fuel Up to Play 60 is teaching the importance of a healthy breakfast with dairy for students. It provides a major boost for the day, both physically and mentally as it assists students in focusing on work, among other things. To make these current days as normal as possible, students can share and practice those lessons at home.

Ron is extremely proud of all the kids who participate and he’s also very proud of the school for the time and effort it has put in to make Fuel Up to Play 60 a rousing success at Our Lady of Hope-St. Luke’s.

But he’ll refuse to take any credit for it and makes sure all the focus is on the students and their health and wellness.

“There’s been so many positive changes,” Ron explained. “The interaction between the students is evident. The students encourage each other to get involved in Fuel Up to Play 60 and run around, be healthy, drink milk, eat healthy and have fun.

“And it’s helped with positive interactions between students and teachers. And that’s key because that relationship helps developmentally. The principal, the teachers, everyone at the school promotes Fuel Up to Play 60 and they repeat it. We have a healthy eating wall and the physical activity wall here. Each month, a different class gets to post on the walls and they post on what Fuel Up to Play 60 means to them.

“It all teaches healthy eating with dairy, activity and how to be a part of a team, which we hope sets the base for those things to continue into adulthood.”

As the current events of the world change on a seemingly daily basis, the lessons Ron and the Fuel Up to Play 60 program teach students can remain a constant in any setting, especially at home.