Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

September 17, 2013

McDowell County children getting state-of-the-art fitness, community center

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

WAR — An old high school gymnasium is being transformed into a state-of-the-art fitness center for youngsters in McDowell County. And the facility also will soon become the region’s first community center in a school.

The Southside K-8 School in McDowell County was one of three educational facilities in West Virginia selected as a National Champion School. The local school was recognized because of the efforts of staff members in promoting physical fitness innovation and healthy living standards to their students.

“We were fortunate enough to receive a grant out of the governor’s office for approximately $100,000 for physical fitness equipment, and we have installed that physical fitness equipment in the old Big Creek gymnasium,” School Superintendent Nelson Spencer said. “We’ve spent this summer doing some major renovations to that building. Our intent in the future is to use it not only for our school children, but also a community center as well.”

Students will get to use the equipment, which is specially designed for small children, for the first time Wednesday. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, and other local and state dignitaries, will be at Southside Wednesday at 2 p.m. to officially cut the ribbon on the new “Live Positively Fitness Center.”

The fitness center dedication is the beginning of what will ultimately be the first community center in a McDowell County school. School officials are currently working to obtain grant funding to help develop the community center. Once the funding is secure, the community center will be opened to the public, according to a press release issued by the school Monday. Until then, the fitness center will be used for grades 5-8.

The county’s Board of Education also recently voted to name the structure the “Thomas Hatcher Community Center” in honor of the late War Mayor Tom Hatcher. Hatcher, who died on July 17, 2012, served as the mayor of War for 15 years.

 Those scheduled to attend Wednesday’s program include Tomblin, Sen. Truman Chafin, D-Mingo, War Mayor Kitten Cempella, Spencer, and Bob Mietz, a representative of Coca Cola. After the assembly, the group, including Southside Principal Florisha McGuire, staff and students, will walk to the former Big Creek High School gymnasium where the youngsters will participate in their first physical fitness demonstration.

“The equipment is actually designed for small children and adolescents,” Spencer said. “It’s not typical physical fitness equipment. It’s actually smaller versions (of the equipment) for our children.”

   Physical activity and exercise have been shown to help prevent and treat more than 40 chronic diseases, enhance individual health and quality of life and reduce health care costs, according to Tomblin. In schools, physical activity and exercise have been shown to improve academic achievement, increase confidence and self-esteem, reduce discipline problems, cut absenteeism and foster better interpersonal relationships, the governor’s office said.

The National Foundation for Governors’ Fitness Councils seeks to encourage and reward innovation in the field of youth fitness by awarding fitness centers to schools that use new and unique methods to promote student physical activity and wellness.  

— Contact Charles Owens at