SOUTH FORSYTH — The Atlanta Falcons know children need activity and exercise to grow up to be famous football players, and on Wednesday they helped encourage students at a local school along that path.
During the Atlanta Falcons First Down for Fitness Kickoff event, about 150 students in third through fifth grades at Shiloh Point Elementary participated in a fitness training camp with two Falcons players, cheerleaders, staff members and the team’s mascot, Freddie Falcon.
Footage from the event will be used to promote the team’s Play 60 campaign, which encourages one hour per day of physical activity.
“Georgia has one of the highest youth obesity rates in the country,” said Chris Millman, director of community relations for the Falcons. “We’re trying to do what we can to promote physical activity among our youth.”
Millman said students were put through some of the same drills professional football players go through during practice.
A goal of the program is to encourage physical activity while also having fun.
“We love being able to go out and experience doing this stuff with the kids,” Millman said. “They love it. We love it. We love football. We love showing them what a great game this is.”
Cate Hernandez has been a P.E. teacher at Shiloh Point all 10 years the school has been open. She said it has participated in the Falcons’ fitness program for the past eight.
“Our kids love them,” Hernandez said.
This is the third year the team has chosen Shiloh Point as the subject of the kickoff event and promotional video.
“I love doing things like this to interact with kids and teach them about the importance of [physical activity],” said Falcons cornerback Phillip Adams.
He led one of the five drill stations during the event, where kids ran backwards around a cone before running back to catch his pass.
Other stations asked participants to follow dance moves to a song, to throw a football at a target and to run through padded cones and dive onto a mat.
Adams said he loved the “look in their eyes when we walked in … they’re excited to have us here.”
Shiloh Point Principal Derrick Hershey said the vision of the school is to “be a home for the mind, body and spirit.”
During events like this that teach physical aspects, he said, “we are reaching all three of those areas.”
“It’s the Falcons. Everybody’s excited to see the Falcons,” Hershey said. “The kids truly look at them as their local heroes. Talk has been up since last week since they found out they were coming.”
Wide receiver Leonard Hankerson said he came out to the event because of the kids.
“I have three kids of my own, and I love to get them out and get them playing. It helps with keeping them healthy,” Hankerson said. “It’s very important to be active on a daily basis. Go out there. Have fun. Do what you can.”
At his station, students jumped over obstacles before catching a pass and throwing it back.
Of the day at Shiloh Point, he said he enjoyed giving them “a memory they will never forget.”