Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation Awards Fit Together Grants to Promote Rural Physical Activity

May 12, 2006

BCBSNC Contact:
Mark Stinneford, (919) 765-3745

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Five organizations across the state have been awarded the first-ever Fit Together grants from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation (BCBSNC Foundation) to promote physical activity and remove barriers to active lifestyles in rural counties.

The grant winners include a church walking initiative, programs to make sure that residents and workplaces make the most of local parks for wellness initiatives, a fitness mentoring program for middle school students and a project to provide well-lit sidewalks to a neighborhood.

The winners will receive grants of up to $40,000 per year for three years.

"Rural communities face a particular challenge in providing opportunities for physical activity," said Kathy Higgins, president of the BCBSNC Foundation. "Sidewalks and walking trails may be hard to find, and some children have to go to the next county or state to find a park or sports league. What's special about these Fit Together grantees is that they are working to create an atmosphere in which residents can conveniently incorporate activity in their day-to-day life."

The award winners are:

  • Fit Families of Chatham, Chatham County: This Fit Together project will maximize the potential of the new Southwest Park in Chatham County, recruiting nearby families and workplaces for physical activity programs centered at the park. Participants will learn how to incorporate physical activity into their everyday life, and local employers will be recruited to develop policies encouraging workers to use the park.
  • Gateway to Healthy Living, Camden County: A limited tax base and moratorium on new construction have resulted in limited facilities and programs for physical activity in Camden County. This project will increase opportunities for physical activity through a new park in the center of the county. Project efforts will initially target county and school employees, then expand to other community members such as students and local businesses.
  • Walking to Jerusalem Faith-Based Walking Program, Jackson County: Nine churches in Jackson County have joined together to increase routine physical activity among their church members. Through a faith-based walking program, church and community members will walk the distance from Sylva to Jerusalem (an equivalent of 6,313 miles) and assist in implementing policies to encourage physical activity and walking. This and other physical activity programs will encourage use of physical facilities in the community such as the walking trail, two parks and a church gym.
  • Students Lead the Way to "Fit Together, Move More Communities," East Carolina University, Pitt County: In two underserved towns in Pitt County, mentors will serve as positive role models and engage middle school children in routine activity through the Students Lead the Way to "Fit Together, Move More Communities" project. Opportunities for students to be physically active will be provided through programs such as the GO FIT! after-school program, and school running and walking clubs. Students' families and school staff will also have opportunities to participate in wellness programs.
  • Walk Walnut Cove, Healthy Carolinians of Stokes County: A walkable community in the London neighborhood of Stokes County is the vision of the Walk Walnut Cove Fit Together project. The goal of the project is to make active living accessible to residents of all ages through building safe, well-lit sidewalks in key connection areas of the neighborhood and utilizing complimentary promotion, programs and policy strategies.

Fit Together grants are modeled after Active Living by Design, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The grants are designed to promote innovative and integrated strategies to increase access and reduce barriers to physical activity in rural communities. Eligible applicants must be nonprofit 501(c)(3) public charities or governmental organizations and must be planning to implement their projects within one of North Carolina's 85 rural counties (as defined by the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center).

In 2003, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina partnered with the North Carolina Health and Wellness Trust Fund Commission to create Fit Together, a statewide campaign designed to raise awareness about the dangers of unhealthy weight and, more importantly, to equip individuals, families and communities with the tools they need to address this very serious health concern. In support of this initiative, the BCBSNC Foundation created the Fit Together grant program.

About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation is a separate, independent, nonprofit Foundation dedicated to improving the health and well-being of North Carolinians. The Foundation's focus areas include: Health of Vulnerable Populations - improving health outcomes of populations served by safety net organizations; Healthy Active Communities - increasing physical activity and encouraging healthy eating habits; and Community Impact through Nonprofit Excellence - increasing the effectiveness of nonprofit organizations.  BCBSNC Foundation invests programs and services in response to grant requests and proactively creates initiatives or partners with organizations to address specific needs. It also coordinates several Signature Programs, among them, the Be Active KidsĀ® and Healthy Community Institute for Nonprofit Excellence.  More information is available at

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