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O'Connell, youth leader honored at Vikings' game

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n Sunday, Dec. 9, the Midwest Dairy Council and the Minnesota Vikings teamed up to reward 17 Fuel Up to Play 60 youth leaders and their advisors with the ultimate game day experience: a run through the players' tunnel in front of cheering fans prior to the Vikings vs. Chicago Bears game on Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. Among those youth leaders was Alexander O'Connell, a student at Sheyenne 9th Grade Center.

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Alexander and the rest of the student leaders have been instrumental in implementing and promoting the Fuel Up to Play 60 program, a national movement to improve youth health and wellness, at their schools and in their communities.

Fuel Up to Play 60 is an in-school nutrition and physical activity program launched by the National Dairy Council and National Football League, in collaboration with United States Department of Agriculture, which encourages youth to consume nutrient-rich foods and achieve at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Fuel Up to Play 60 student leaders and their program advisors encourage peers and family members to make healthier food choices and commit to daily physical activity as part of the program, which engages more than 73,000 schools nationwide.

"It's inspiring to see such a high level of enthusiasm for Fuel Up to Play 60 from these students and their advisors. They're extremely motivated to implementing the program plays and challenges, and to make positive, healthy changes in their schools and communities," says Lisa McCann, RD, program manager of health and wellness, Midwest Dairy Council. "These students are developing lifelong healthy habits that will benefit them for years to come."

Because of their successful efforts to boost program participation at their schools, 17 students - including three state program ambassadors from Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota - and 16 program advisors were rewarded with tickets to the Minnesota Vikings vs. Chicago Bears game on December 9. The students appeared on the field before the game, and ran out of the tunnel and through the Vikings ship just before kickoff. During the game, there was a special announcement recognizing the students and program advisors from Fuel Up to Play 60 and their enthusiasm for encouraging peers to make healthy, active decisions.

During the pre-game activities, the group also met Viktor, the Vikings mascot; Princess Kay of the Milky Way, Christine Reitsma; Ken Herbranson, a Minnesota dairy farmer, and Midwest Dairy Association's Minnesota Division Board Chair; and Jerry Messer, a North Dakota dairy farmer and chair of Midwest Dairy Association's Board.

"We're thrilled to partner with Midwest Dairy Council to generate excitement for the Fuel Up to Play 60 initiative," said Steve LaCroix, Minnesota Vikings vice president of sales and marketing/chief marketing officer. "Our players understand the importance of nutritional health and physical fitness, and they are proud to be positive role models for young leaders who are inspiring others to live healthier lives."

Midwest Dairy Council, an affiliate of National Dairy Council, is the nutrition education division of Midwest Dairy Association. The Council is dedicated to dairy nutrition research and education through the investment of more than 9,500 dairy farm families across 10 Midwestern states, and is committed to child health and wellness through our collaborative program, Fuel Up to Play 60. For more information, visit www.midwestdairy.com.

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