The Cooper Institute

Founded in 1970 by the "Father of Aerobics"
Kenneth H. Cooper MD, MPH


Jackie Joyner-Kersee Provides A Life Rx for Health to Benefit Dallas Kids

DALLAS, TX - Thousands of students at more than 50 Dallas-area private schools/after-school programs in diverse and low-income neighborhoods will now benefit from the same FITNESSGRAM® assessment testing that will be implemented in public schools statewide this year.  The Cooper Institute, with its Our Kids’ Health initiative, along with event speaker and Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee, announced the donation on February 20 at a benefit luncheon “A Life Rx for Health,” at the Hilton Anatole Hotel in Dallas.

Joyner-Kersee, luncheon keynote speaker and children’s advocate, applauded the Institute’s work and ambitious but needed undertaking with this model program. “I am proud to announce the great news of the FITNESSGRAM donation. Childhood obesity is a serious concern in Texas and across the nation, as kids today are often raised on fast-food and video games. FITNESSGRAM will help scale-down the problem by encouraging schools, families and entire communities to set healthy standards for kids, while measuring their success along the way.”

The Cooper Institute and local benefactors are also donating the program to the Dallas Independent School District’s 225 schools. “Providing ways for kids to stay active is an important part of keeping them physically fit and preventing childhood obesity, as well as bettering their school performance. Research shows that students achieving a Healthy Fitness Zone in at least five out of six FITNESSGRAM tests also score higher academically and have fewer discipline problems,” explained Dr. Kenneth Cooper, chairman & CEO, Cooper Aerobics Center and founder, The Cooper Institute, who has raised $2 million to fund the program in schools statewide. “Thanks to the commitment of our supporters, we are now able to bring this scientifically-sound program to even more students in our community.”

FITNESSGRAM, created by The Cooper Institute, was selected last year by the Texas Education Association (TEA) as the statewide physical fitness assessment tool.  Senate Bill 530 requires that more than four million public and charter school students, grades 3 through 12, be tested by the FITNESSGRAM on their physical fitness annually.  In fact, more than 8,000 public schools are preparing for the first test this spring; however, there is no provision for private schools. SB 530 also mandates physical education (PE) for K-8th graders this school year.

Texas ranks 12th among all states for obese and overweight populations.  A 2007 Texas Comptroller report showed that nearly two-thirds of the state’s adults are overweight or obese.  It also showed that 42 percent of the state’s 4th graders, 39 percent of 8th graders and 36 percent of 11th graders were overweight or at risk of being overweight.

The “A Life Rx for Health Luncheon” enjoyed a capacity crowd of almost 500 and raised more than $250,000 for the underserved and private school initiative. Luncheon co-chairs were Carol Seay, Pam Denesuk and Mary Blake Meadows. Major sponsors of The Cooper Institute’s luncheon include: Olympic level sponsor The Thomas Driscoll Research Scholarship, which will fund a five-year study of the FITNESSGRAM data from the 50+ private schools.  Additional supporters include Decathlon-level sponsor Vought Aircraft Industries, Inc.; and Marathon-level sponsors Michael and Susan Dell, and Esther Beth and Orville Rogers; as well as 150 other individual and corporate donors.