FORT HOOD — A group of special guests served up a combination platter of football, cheer and nutrition for about 400 excited second- through fifth-graders Friday at Montague Village Elementary School on Fort Hood.
In a unique meshing of Dallas Cowboys outreach efforts, students learned the importance of healthy diet and fitness and put their learning to action in stations with Cowboys cheerleaders and the team’s academy coaches.
Seven cheerleaders and six former professional or college players who coach for the team’s youth academies made the trip to Fort Hood, along with famous mascot Rowdy and sideline reporter Kristi Scales.
With a combination of motivational charge from Scales and Rowdy and an interactive video and volunteers holding pictures, students heard the value of eating vegetables, fruits, proteins, grains and dairy.
The excitement really started as the pair of assemblies moved outside and coaches and cheerleaders led groups of students in drills like NFL players experience, as well as a game and dance cheerleaders taught.
The Cowboys cheerleaders only release first names during public appearances. One, Savannah, told students the trip was a homecoming for her since her father was once a soldier stationed at Fort Hood.
In 1994, as a young child, Savannah said her parents took her to meet Bob Hope when the superstar entertainer was visiting Fort Hood. She never dreamed she would one day return to the Army installation to motivate students.
“I was young when my dad was here at Fort Hood and it’s special to be back here,” she said. She and other cheerleaders said the program for students was meant to challenge all regardless of interest level.
“Just like the guys who take the field, they can prepare their bodies,” said KaShara, another cheerleader. Whether you spend the weekend on an athletic field or raking leaves, it’s important to stay healthy, she said.
The visit also coincided with the NFL’s Salute to Service campaign that leads into Veterans Day later this month.
Montague Village teachers and administrators said it was a treat to see children smiling, moving and having fun on a welcomed sunny day with famous guests.
“It’s great seeing kids being active and enjoying themselves,” said Assistant Principal Katie Hequembourg. “They are enjoying the exercise. A lot of these kids have a lot going on in their lives and this is a treat for them.”
PE teacher Kelli Gilmore said she felt blessed that the coaches and cheerleaders would spend time with students. “This is a unique opportunity for them. To be chosen leaves me speechless,” she said. “They will never forget it.”
The message that food is fuel and the drills and games were consistent with lessons and activities in PE. “They tie it all in with the sports we do,” Gilmore said. “With professional athletes telling them that, it reinforces what we teach.”
“It was super-fun,” said fourth-grader Noah Cisneros. “I liked the game with the cheerleaders and the plays with the coaches throwing and catching. They were teaching us to keep our bodies healthy.”
“It was so cool,” said fifth-grader Lia Shapiro “I loved playing football and dancing around like crazy.”
Todd Martin is an employee of the Killeen Independent School District communications department and writes about students, teaches and school events.