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Project Fit comes to Southold

delegation from Peconic Bay Medical Center arrived at Southold Elementary School Monday afternoon with a sneaky plan.

The ruse was this: Hospital officials told the school they were conducting a site visit to help them decide among several schools that might win new fitness equipment through PBMC’s sponsorship with Project Fit America.

But the truth was that Southold had already won.

Participants in the trickery were PBMC president and CEO Andrew Mitchell, vice president of foundation and external affairs Samantha Vigliotta and public relations and community outreach manager Olivia Basaly. They met with principal Eileen O’Neill and physical education teacher Pete Salerno, asking them to pitch reasons their district should be chosen and to give a tour of school facilities already dedicated to health and wellness education.

As they stood outside, where Ms. O’Neill and Mr. Salerno showed where they hope to place the new equipment, the PBMC crew unfurled a banner that read: “Congratulations! Southold School District has been chosen for Project Fit America.”

“My quick reaction is, ‘Oh my gosh,’ ” Ms. O’Neill said. “It’s amazing. I really had no idea.”

Project Fit America brings sponsors and schools together to expand fitness education. As a sponsor, PBMC committed to $25,000 for equipment and installation. The project includes above-ground outdoor equipment, including parallel and pull-up bars and a sit-up station, as well as mobile indoor mobile equipment such as cardio cups and sport hoops. 

The equipment will enhance to the school’s effort to teach students about healthy lifestyles, which includes the garden where students learn about growing healthy food, school officials said. The new equipment comes with by Project Fit America training on how to use it and incorporate it into the school’s curriculum. 

“Surprised” is certainly the word physical education teacher John Palmari used to describe his reaction to the news.

“It’s just one more thing to add to what we have here,” he said. “It’s kind of a unique environment out here, in which the kids engage in physical activity and play a lot more because of it. So, add one more thing to the list for them to be excited about and get some physical activity and exercise and all the good things that come along with it.”

Southold Superintendent David Gamberg said it’s another example of how the school district is being proactive about promoting health and wellness, 

It’ll also complement a new track and field shared with the junior and senior high school, he said. 

“We’re just really excited,” Ms. O’Neill said. “I think the kids are going to benefit, which is the most important part. This is all for the kids and their families as well, so on the weekends they can use them. It starts when they’re little — to get that love of exercise and eating healthy.”

The selection of Southold Elementary School rounds out PBMC’s Project Fit sponsorship of North Fork schools. With multiple local schools involved in Project Fit, training conferences can be held at which schools can share how they’ve incorporated the equipment into their curriculum, Ms. Vigliotta said.

“The North Fork’s a special place and to be able to expand our mission to all the schools, especially elementary schools, and see the benefit that it brings, not only to the kids but to the teachers — it’s just a wonderful thing,” Mr. Mitchell said. 

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Photo caption: Peconic Bay Medical Center officials visited the elementary school with a surprise announcement. (Kelly Zegers photo)