MANHATTAN — Thrive Allen County’s long-standing goal — to help produce a healthier, more productive citizenry — has been recognized by the state.
Thrive representatives were on hand Wednesday to receive one of five 2014 Kansas Health Champion Awards during the third annual Kansas Obesity Summit.
The Health Champion Award was developed by the Governor’s Council on Fitness through its Get Active Kansas Campaign.
It was designed to single out groups or individuals who “recognize and promote exemplary contributions to fitness in Kansas,” according to a Kansas Department of Health and Environment press release
The proverbial feather in the cap brings more than a trophy. As the 2014 Organizational Health Champion, Thrive will receive a four-year, $600,000 KDHE grant.
It’s the largest grant in Thrive’s history, noted Damaris Kunkler, Thrive’s program director.
The award was particularly gratifying, Kunkler said, because the Kansas Department of Health and Environment notified Thrive about the Health Champions program.
“They reached out to us,” she said. “I think the state recognized what we do here.”
The KDHE grant comes from the Centers For Disease Control and will help Thrive fund even more activities and provide more health education materials in the future.
“Now we have to figure out what this means — what this is going to take,” Kunkler said. “I know it means a lot of focused, intensive work, which is what we do anyway. I’m sure we’ll be leaning heavier on some of our connections we have with ACMAT (Allen County Multi-Agency Team), the coalition we work with.”
THE STATE cited several instances in which Thrive has helped Allen Countians become more healthy.
The state cited Thrive’s “The Movement” campaign, healthy cooking classes, yoga instruction, weekly walks, group runs and bicycle rides.
Thrive also was instrumental in the county’s adding nearly 20 miles of walking and biking trails in the last five years, while taking steps to improve bicycle and walking conditions elsewhere.
In addition, Thrive sponsors the annual Charley Melvin Run For Your Life each July, the largest 5K run in southeast Kansas.
The state also noted Thrive’s role in the recently completed National Bike Challenge, which put Allen County as the top county in the state and among the top five counties in the nation.
The increased activities have proven critical in Allen County’s improvement in state health rankings.
In 2010, Allen County ranked 94th of 105 counties in terms of its healthy citizens. In four years since, that ranking has improved to 79th.
Thrive’s goal, Kunkler noted, is to eventually have Allen County ranked as the healthiest in southeast Kansas.
“Community design initiatives such as pedestrian improvements, signed bike routes, and bicycle ‘sharrows’ are now part of the county’s infrastructure, promoting physical activity for years to come,” the KDHE press release said.
THRIVE has been a part of the Get Active Kansas campaign since 2013, using Chronic Disease Risk Reduction grant funds for several of its activities since then.
“That’s where it started,” Kunkler said.
Kunkler made a point of posting updates on many of the activities, in and out of Thrive, to the group’s Facebook page.
“When I started putting stuff on the page, the state started finding out Allen County is really active,” Kunkler said.