The teams are set, the city of Atlanta is prepared and the hype is real. Super Bowl LIII will take place in Mercedes Benz Stadium featuring a match-up between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams. However, the National Football League (NFL) has partnered with schools in Georgia to celebrate the MVPs who call our classrooms home.

A few lucky students, P.E. teacher Penny Atkinson and Laura Walley, Principal for Elm Street Elementary, were invited to Infinite Energy Center in Duluth, Ga. for the NFL’s Super Kids Sharing Event. Elm Street asked their community to donate sports items, books, school supplies and more that could be delivered to Infinite Energy Center during a gathering sponsored by the NFL.

NFL Play 60 volunteers, NFL cheerleaders and NFL athletes who have played in the league mingled with the crowds of students and educators from all over the state of Georgia. Since the Super Bowl is being held in Atlanta, the NFL has an organization that works with the home city to welcome visitors and give back to the community that hosts the big game.

“There are 35 schools in the state of Georgia who have a partnership with Cooper Institute-FitnessGram (an institution that focuses on health and wellness) and NFL Fuel Up to Play 60 and Elm Street is one of those schools. I participated in a training for the FitnessGram program, and Jason and Susan Groh invited us to attend this event,” said Atkinson. “We gladly accepted the invitation.”

"It is so exciting to help celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Super Bowl pre-game celebrations, specifically the Super Kids Sharing Project."

For the past 20 years, the NFL has worked with the state that hosts the Super Bowl to increase awareness of needs in the community, donate services to different outreach organizations and increase awareness about environmental challenges, educational opportunities and other community programs that improve the home of the Super Bowl every year.

“It is so exciting to help celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Super Bowl pre-game celebrations, specifically the Super Kids Sharing Project,” Atkinson said. “Each year we are also invited down to Flowery Branch to play and learn about healthy lifestyles. We will also be a part of a virtual field trip that is centered on healthy lifestyles later this year. This is also part of our partnership with the NFL and the Atlanta Falcons.”

Schools who wish to be partners with the NFL’s Fuel Up to Play 60 program must give the FitnessGram test to their students twice a year. Students are graded based on their aerobic capacity, flexibility, abdominal strength and overall muscle strength. Those components give educators data they can use to track the fitness of their students. Finally, the Cooper Institute uses that data to rank Georgia’s children with the rest of the states in the Union. The end goal is to create a healthier population and the journey starts with our children.

“We decided as a school to not collect donations from our students,” said Walley. “Our students have been so generous. For example, they worked so hard to provide relief for hurricane victims. We thought that since this donation drive happened around the holidays, that we were not going to ask them to donate any of their used toys and other things they may have. We decided to reach out to our faculty’s families and see if they were willing to donate some of the things they were cleaning out over the holidays.”

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All Walley had to do is ask.

Teachers donated things from their classrooms, garages and playrooms at home giving Elm Street a huge load of books, school supplies and sports equipment to drop off at the Infinite Energy Center.

“Ms. Atkinson actually cleaned out her equipment closet at school and we were able to donate some of those items today,” Walley smiled. “But, there is another cool part of this day. The five students we selected today based on their fitness, grades and great behavior will get to come back in and shop the donations. They won’t need to spend money and they can leave with some things that will really help them continue to stay active and perform at a high level in the classroom. That is really the cherry on top for us.”

When everything was counted, Super Kids Sharing had collected over 40,000 items.

After comments from NFL representatives, former players and sponsors, the kids were allowed to run through football drills led by former NFL players.

When the kids were asked about their experience, the answer was belted out through heavy breathing, “This is so much fun!”

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