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Fun and Fitness
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General Mills makes children smile not only with sweet, colorful cereal, but also with monkey bars and climbing walls.

Rocky Plains Elementary PTO officers and Assistant Principal Lynne DiNardo organized a ribbon cutting Friday morning for the new playground equipment purchased with the General Mills "Fun and Fitness Grant."

"General Mills is pretty good about giving grants," said Denise Tymkew, PTO secretary, "and really anything to help the children."

PTO members worked with General Mills and the Newton County Community Partnership to receive the $3,700 grant.

"General Mills provides the funding, and we coordinate the program with the schools," said Stu Taber, executive director of the NCCP.

Taber explained how the partnership works with General Mills as well as the County Board of Education and Board of Health to support entertaining forms of fitness and health education in the schools.

"Exercise is important," Taber said to the students at the ribbon cutting. "You need to exercise everyday and eat and drink right."

Tymkew said she and PTO President Sandy Slemp, Vice President Jamie Perez and Treasurer Kim Bishop were excited to hear they had received funds for what took about a year to plan.

"Kim and I took it on like kids in a candy store," Tymkew said.

The new playground includes a large hanging bar contraption complete with monkey bars, loop hangs and zigzag poles. Balance equipment sits at each end of the bar system - one end has what looks like the end of a crutch turned upside down and the other end has steps resembling a crooked railroad track.

Students can now also enjoy climbing on a space-capsule like structure complete with foot and hand-holds, a railed platform and hollow crawl space underneath.

Physical education coach Shanna Rachels said the new playground will enhance children's upper body strength and balance. She said the equipment will likely be utilized in the physical education curriculum, especially to prepare for the spring physical fitness tests.

"We also needed something for the older grades - the old playground was more for younger kids with the slides and swings and all," Rachels said, "and they all seem to like it."