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STARKVILLE, Miss. – The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition (PCFSN) has selected Heather Carson to receive a 2013 PCFSN Community Leadership Award. The award is given annually to individuals or organizations who improve the lives of others within their community by providing or enhancing opportunities to engage in sports, physical activities, fitness or nutrition-related programs.

Carson helped provide the spark the City of Starkville and the Starkville School District needed to bring to light the importance of play. When she and her family moved to Mississippi, one of her top priorities was finding a quality public school for her children. In this search, she discovered several excellent schools. While they were superior in academic quality many lacked inspiring playspaces and placed little to no value on recess.

She responded by launching the GoPlay Initiative in 2009 to integrate community-wide resources and create student learning opportunities and playful, physical activities beyond the classroom.

Through the GoPlay Initiative, Heather bridged local businesses, parents, community volunteers and educators together to make Starkville more playful. In 2011, 2012 and 2013, Starkville was recognized as a Playful City USA community by the national non-profit organization KaBOOM!, an award honoring cities that make play a priority and use programs to get children active, playing and healthy. At Henderson Ward Stewart Elementary, the GoPlay Initiative has completed construction projects ranging from playground installations to outdoor classrooms and school gardens. Through various partnerships, the GoPlay Initiative raised nearly $80,000 for their Sudduth Elementary inclusive playground project in October 2012

“Heather Carson has worked tirelessly to promote the importance of physical activity and/or good nutrition throughout the community,” says Shellie Pfohl, executive director of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition. “Because of Heather’s efforts and contributions, countless individuals can benefit from a healthier, more active lifestyle. Together we are all working to make our nation a healthier one.”

“Heather Carson is a remarkable person,” said Dr. Lewis Holloway, Starkville School District Superintendent. “She wrote grants, solicited donations, developed a plan, organized construction and generated hundreds of volunteers to complete these projects. It was Heather’s creativeness and inspiration that helped Starkville put these playgrounds in place. Because of her efforts, Starkville is a better place to live.”

This year, the President’s Council presented the Community Leadership Award to 34 recipients across the country for making sports, physical activity, fitness, and nutrition-related programs available in their communities.

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