Empire BlueCross BlueShield Foundation Impacting Blind and Visually Impaired Teens Nationwide


The New York Institute for Special Education Participating in National Fitness Challenge


February 26, 2013 
Media Contacts: 
Jaclyn Mattel

[NEW YORK, NY] (February 26, 2013) – The New York Institute for Special Education is pleased to announce its second year participating in the National Fitness Challenge sponsored by The United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) and Empire BlueCross BlueShield Foundation, who provided a generous $150,000 grant to make this program possible. There are more than 20 agencies from across the United States participating in the National Fitness Challenge, which will provide more than 700 teenagers who are blind and visually impaired with an opportunity to increase their physical fitness levels and live a healthier and more active lifestyle.  
“We are extremely pleased and excited to host a second year of the National Fitness Challenge. With the renewal of this grant we will be able to reach more youth with the ultimate goal of helping each participating teen become more active and fit by using fun and challenging physical activities,” said Mark Lucas, executive director of USABA. In order to keep track of each participants success, every agency submits baseline data and monthly updates that are used to create achievable fitness and weight loss goals for the teens to help them decrease their body mass index. 
Middle and high school students at The New York Institute for Special Education are participating in various activities to improve their physical fitness levels. In their adapted physical education classes, the students participate in health-related activites to improve their cardiovascular health, muscular strength, endurance and flexibililty. These activites include running, walking, biking and using an elliptical machine to improve aerobic fitness. The students participate in group and individual sports and activities, as well as weight training to improve their muscular strength and endurance. To improve their flexibility, each student has a specific warm-up and stretching exercise to do before and after each activity. The students also are screened monthly on their body mass index and the majority have shown an improvement during the USABA and Empire BlueCross BlueShield Foundation National Fitness Challenge. The New York Institute for Special Education received grant money for participating in the program, which was used to purchase an elliptical machine for the physical fitness room. 
Research has consistently shown that individuals who particpate in regular physical activity have higher energy levels, a lower risk of health-related diseases, improved psychological health, and have lower rates of depression and anxiety. Unfortunately, because of the many barriers and misconceptions about their abilities, approximately 70 percent of the nearly 56,000 children and youth who are blind and visually impaired in the United States do not participate in even a limited physical education curriculum. USABA and the Empire BlueCross BlueShield Foundation are working to eliminate these barriers.  
“The Empire BlueCross BlueShield Foundation helps us continue meeting the company’s commitment to helping children and adults live active lives and avoid the health risks associated with sedentary lifestyles and obesity,” said Bill Smith, president and general manager of Empire’s Disability and Life business. “We believe no one should be denied the right to enjoy the physical and emotional benefits associated with exercise; therefore, we are very proud to once again partner with the USABA to ensure that vision impairments do not limit the recreational opportunities afforded to teenagers across the country.” 
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