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The OrganWise Guys visit Kershaw County schools

Posted: March 13, 2012 3:33 p.m.
Updated: March 14, 2012 5:00 a.m.

When Camden Council member Alfred Mae Drakeford visited her Las Vegas-based daughter, Kimberly Mosley, over Christmas she was astounded to find her three-year-old granddaughter, Sydney, lecturing her about nutrition. “Mimi, French-fries are not healthy!” Sydney indicated at one point, informing her grandmother that she had to grocery shop with her mother, because her father customarily bought junk food. “Definitely not good for you, Mimi.”

“Try telling a teenager what to eat. They’re already fixed in their ways, or I should say, committed to their sodas and fast food,” Drakeford said. “On the other hand, we have known for a long time that younger children are receptive to new information. The younger the better. We just needed to find the right program, and now we have it with The OrganWise Guys. If you can educate children early enough, they will own that information for the rest of their lives.”

The OrganWise Guys were discovered by Tony Scully, chair of the local Let’s Move Cities & Towns, First Lady Michelle Obama’s childhood obesity initiative, at last year’s state summit for the parent program, Eat Smart, Move More.  He brought the successful children’s nutrition program to the attention of former CEO and current board member of BlueCross Blue Shield, South Carolina, Joe Sullivan.  Sullivan, deeply concerned about children’s health, was impressed with the cope and depth of the Atlanta-based program, now in more than 5,000 schools nationwide, but not yet in South Carolina.  Sullivan passed the information to Harvey Galloway and his colleague, Jennifer DuMont, of the BlueCross Blue Shield Foundation, both of whom agreed about the worth of the program and the possibility of BlueCross BlueShield Foundation support.

The next step was talking to Dr. Frank Morgan, superintendent of the Kershaw County School District. After speaking with Dr. Michelle Lombardo, The OrganWise Guys founder and CEO, Morgan felt that a pilot program might be in order.
As Morgan looked for teacher buy-in, local principals Matia Goodwin of Jackson School and Virginia Catoe of Doby’s Mill School agreed to serve as the pilot schools; both felt that their teachers would be excited about The OrganWise Guys, which is exactly what happened.

“As most of us are well aware,” said Scully, “childhood obesity, despite our best efforts, is only getting worse. According to the Centers for Disease Control, obesity among children aged 6 to 11 years increased from roughly 7 percent in 1980 to nearly 20 percent in 2008.  We estimate that by 2050, half of minority children in this country will suffer from Diabetes II.  The financial implications in terms of lost work, medical maintenance costs, and related illnesses, such as heart disease, blindness, and depression are not acceptable.  We need to better understand the causes of this epidemic, and in the meantime we can work at changing our diets and ramping up physical exercise. Teaching the next generation is critical.  Surprisingly, most children have no idea about what food is good and what is bad. Education would seem to be the defining component -- and as we know, children will usually go home and educate their parents.”

What is The OrganWise Guys?

The OrganWise Guys is a multi-media, interactive, cross-curricular school program that uses fun characters based on the organs of the body (such as Hardy Heart; Peri Stolic, the large intestine; and Sir Rebrum, the brain), coupled with high energy activities, to teach children how to make positive health, nutrition, and physical activity choices.

Beyond simply teaching children about nutrition, proper exercise and other beneficial practices, their purpose is to instill healthy habits early, including maintaining a low fat diet, consuming high fiber foods, drinking plenty of water, and engaging in regular physical activity.

Lombardo began The OrganWise Guys Inc. in 1993 with a vision to inspire individuals to take charge of their health by assuming personal responsibility for their choices.  This, she believed, was prevention at its best.

“By bringing the body to life via lovable organ characters, kids of all ages learn what it really means to be smart from the inside out,” said Lombardo.  “With all of the troubling news about the obesity crisis, our evidence-based programming offers a viable, possible solution.”

The good news: The BlueCross BlueShield Foundation of South Carolina Foundation approved $6.7 million in grants in the latter half of 2011, bringing its total support for South Carolina health initiatives to $7.7 million for the year.  One of those grants was to the Kershaw County School District to implement the OrganWise Guys program, first for the pilot programs and then in 11 elementary schools

The week after the first OrganWise Guys class at the Jackson elementary school, a teacher reported to Goodwin that as she was retrieving a canned soda from a vending machine, a third grader approached her to inform her, “You shouldn’t be drinking soda!  That’s not healthy!”

“Thanks to a group of concerned individuals who responded to the The OrganWise Guys, Kershaw County children now have a chance to grow up healthier than their older brothers and sisters,” Scully said.


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