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Students cheered when Newton entered into the gymnasium.

HILDEBRAN — The roar of a very special “panther” could be heard coming from inside the East Burke High School gymnasium on Friday.

Cam Newton, quarterback for the Carolina Panthers, made a stop at the high school to surprise fourth graders who completed the “5-2-1-0” health and nutrition program implemented by Carolinas HealthCare System Blue Ridge.

The 940 students who completed the program were told that Newton might make an appearance during the rewards day event to congratulate them on their hard work.

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Cam Newton was a special guest at the rewards day for Burke County Public Schools fourth graders who completed the “5210” program implemented by Carolinas Health Care System Blue Ridge.

Once in the gym, fourth graders from all the different elementary schools within Burke County Public Schools, sat in groups in front of a giant Carolina Panther inflatable while a DJ played dance music.

Riley Fields, director of community relations for the Carolina Panthers, got the students pumped up for the special guest to appear.

“They (the students) went nuts,” said Stephanie Culp, who serves as wellness and health promotion manager for Carolinas HealthCare System Blue Ridge. “He loves the kids.”

Newton led the students in several different physical activities including a relay race and “5-2-1-0” trivia.

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Students played a trivia game with Newton and Riley Fields, director of community relations for the Carolina Panthers, where they were asked a question about the 5210 program.

He talked with students about the four different learning points that use the program title “5-2-1-0” and energetically interacted with each group when playing the different games.

Students were introduced to the following health guidelines over the past school year including:

» 5 – Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day

» 2 – Limit recreational screen time to less than two hours per day

» 1 – Be physically active for at least one hour per day

» 0 – Avoid sugary drinks

Aubrey Bradshaw, health coach and coordinator for the 5210 program, along with Stephanie Culp, who serves as wellness and health promotion manager for the local hospital system, are the organizers of the program. Bradshaw travels around to each elementary school five different times from October to April teaching children about how to be healthy with what they eat and how they exercise. A pep rally is held on the first visit to each school.

Bradshaw enjoyed seeing the excitement on the kids’ faces and the joy it brought to them to go to the reward’s day and visit with Newton.

At each visit, Bradshaw would have an instructional time focusing on one program point at a time and then having a fun physical activity as well, Culp said.

In the “5-2-1-0” program, Newton plays the part of the character “Action Ace” in the “5-2-1-0”  program, she said.

“When (the students) watch the video at the beginning of the year when (Bradshaw) does the pep rally it shows him in the video and they know he is Action Ace,” Culp said.

“We feel very, very thankful and grateful that he took the time out to come and see us,” Culp said. “We are thankful for Atrium Health arranging that and for Cam being willing to do that.”

She believes that when the students see one of their roles models using the “5-2-1-0” system, it encourages them to be even healthier themselves.

Staff Writer Jonelle Bobak can be reached at jbobak@morganton.com or 828-432-8907.

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