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Getting OrganWise

Kindergarten through second-grade students at West LincolnAttendance Center were cheering and clapping Monday afternoon, butit was not for recess. The elementary students were cheering forexercise and healthy food.

A joint partnership between Junior Auxiliary and the MississippiState University Extension Service brought the OrganWise Guysprogram to West Lincoln. With the help of characters Hardy Heartand Peri Stolic, Extension Service Agent Natasha Haynes educatedstudents on cholesterol and the importance of exercise and makinghealthy food choices.

“Let me tell you a secret,” Haynes said to the students. “It’sOK to have ice cream sometimes, but it’s not good to have ice creamevery day.”

The OrganWise Guys Inc. began in 1993 on the basis of inspiringindividuals to make healthy decisions. With the help of organcharacters, the program relates difficult material to youngstudents in hopes the information will stick with them.

“I think by starting younger, they’ll remember it, as when we’reolder it’s harder to break a habit, but not impossible,” saidHaynes.

Besides the characters, the OrganWise Guys program kept studentsentertained through the use of various games. Teachers were eventapping their feet and moving along to a song about exercising.

“It was wonderful, she got down on their level, most speakerscan’t get on kindergarteners’ level,” said kindergarten teacherShirley Allen. “She was able to relate information to somethingthey enjoyed.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, theoccurrence of obesity among children aged 6 to 11 years increasedfrom roughly 7 percent in 1980 to nearly 20 percent in 2008. Whilemost students do not grocery shop for themselves, bookmarks thatwere sent home with students will hopefully inspire parents tocontinue where the program left off.

“Usually, if you can go ahead and train a child, they’ll go homeand educate their parents,” said Haynes.

The OrganWise Guys program is just one of several serviceprojects for JA. The Life Choices Committee of JA works to promotepositive life choices for young Lincoln County residents. Thepartnership between JA and the extension service has occurred forroughly the past eight years.

“It’s a great way to introduce healthy eating habits andexercise to children,” said Life Choices Committee member LisaShann of the program. “We want to start (encouraging) kids to makehealthy choices as soon as possible so it’ll carry over intoadulthood.”

The OrganWise Guys will be visiting all the kindergarten throughsecond-grade students in Lincoln County. The friendly characterswill be stopping at Enterprise on Wednesday before heading toBrookhaven Academy, Loyd Star, Bogue Chitto and Mammie Martin inthe weeks ahead.

“It makes me excited that all the children were real receptive,”said Shann. “Maybe the other students will be as receptive as thisgroup was.”