FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. – Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina’s Million Step March arrived today at two Fayetteville elementary schools, where campaign representatives joined students in kicking off a week-long walking contest to encourage the importance of physical activity.
Third-grade students from Stoney Point Elementary and Bill Hefner Elementary schools will wear pedometers for one week to see which school can log the most steps, with the winning school getting a grand prize of $2,000 to be used for promoting physical activity at the school. Both schools will also receive $1,000 for participating in the contest.
During the competition, which officially starts on Monday, students will track and log their steps each day on the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) “Eat and Move” website, eatandmove.com/cumberland.  Eat and Move educates students and their families about health, nutrition and fitness. Winning students will receive $50 gift cards to The Climbing Place, a family oriented climbing facility. Classrooms with the most steps from each school will earn a $250 gift card to an education supply store for their teachers.
The walking competition is one of dozens of activities generated across the state by The Million Step March, which is a 600-mile, statewide walking campaign to promote the importance of physical activity. It kicked off in Asheville on April 1 and ends in Wilmington on June 12.
Team members have walked across the state, stopping to host educational events at nonprofit organizations, parks, worksites, schools and other locations along the route.
The Million Step March team – led by BCBSNC Vice President of Community Relations Kathy Higgins and spokesman Gary Marino – has walked about 500 miles since the campaign launched. Thousands of North Carolinians have laced up their walking shoes and joined the march, both in person and online. More than 6,300 people have logged more than half a billion steps on the walk’s interactive website, BetterHealthNC.com.
“Walking regularly is a habit that can help kids get and stay fit. Through this program, Cumberland County Schools are helping their students get started in a fun and meaningful way,” Higgins said. “We’re pleased to help kids in Fayetteville join the thousands of other North Carolinians who are making walking a part of their daily life by joining the Million Step March.”
During the kick-off celebration, Marino challenged students, teachers and faculty to take even more steps to improve their health. Students and teachers participated in fun, interactive wellness activities, such as “bicycle blenders” that make smoothies as you pedal. Principals of the participating schools also competed in a bicycle blender contest to encourage physical activity.
“In the spirit of good sportsmanship, let me say that Stoney Point Elementary is prepared to walk the shoes off of Bill Hefner Elementary,” said Susan McCray, principal of Stoney Point “Beyond the competition, we’ll all win because of the positive impact on our students’ health.”
“Not so fast, Stoney Point! We’ll be good sports at Bill Hefner Elementary when we leave you in our footsteps,” said Brenda Bethea, principal of Bill Hefner. “Along with this contest, we’re pleased to have the opportunity to teach students to start and maintain health habits. School is a great place to do that.”
On June 9, 2008, BCBSNC will hold special assemblies at each school to recognize the individual winners and award their prizes.
There’s still time to join in the march! Visit BetterHealthNC.com for tips on how to make physical activity part of your routine and to share your story with North Carolinians who want to improve their overall health.
Next up: The Million Step March will reach the finish line with a finale celebration in Wilmington on June 12, 2008.
About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina:
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is a leader in delivering innovative health care products, services and information to more than 3.7 million members, including approximately 904,000 served on behalf of other Blue Plans. For 75 years, the company has served its customers by offering health insurance at a competitive price and has served the people of North Carolina through support of community organizations, programs and events that promote good health. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Access BCBSNC online at bcbsnc.com.
About Million Step March:
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is stepping up its commitment to physical activity with its Million Step March. This new statewide wellness initiative focuses on promoting the benefits of simple, yet effective forms of physical activity like walking. The March begins in Asheville and ends in Wilmington.   It also includes an interactive web site which provides North Carolinians with opportunities to join the March online, and shows them how to make good health a habit, one step at a time. To step it up, visit BetterHealthNC.com.
About the Cumberland County Schools:
Serving approximately 54,000 students, the Cumberland County School (CCS) system is the 4th largest district in North Carolina and the 79th largest district in the United States.  Nestled in the Sandhills of Eastern North Carolina, the CCS is a mix of urban, suburban, and rural schools that serve one of the most diverse populations in the country.  One important aspect of the district is that it is able to provide the resources of a large school district, while maintaining the personal approach to education that is traditionally found in smaller districts. To learn more about the CCS, visit ccs.k12.nc.us.