Three area residents were recognized for making positive and significant contributions to improving the health of Oklahoma children and youth at the 3rd Annual Fit Kids Coalition Awards Luncheon Dec. 10 in Edmond.

Achievements recognized
Dr. Ben Cooper, Comanche County Memorial Hospital who is one of the founders of the Fit Kids Coalition of Southwest Oklahoma, Linda Dzialo, assistant superintendent for Lawton Public Schools, and Monica Smith, physical education teacher at Mark Twain Elementary School in Duncan, received awards from the Oklahoma Fit Kids Coalition.

Stan Hupfeld, president and CEO of Baptist Integris and Board President of Oklahoma Fit Kids Coalition, presented the awards saying, "It is my pleasure to stand before you to recognize the achievements and contributions of teachers, youth leaders, community leaders and schools that are making a difference in health, fitness and nutrition of Oklahoma children and youth.

Founder honors teachers
Cooper, who received the award for the 2008 Distinguished Community Leader, said he just put out the information that this generation of school-age children is the first generation that will not outlive their parents because of childhood obesity.

"What I do isn't as important as what the teachers at public schools do every day," said Cooper. "I'm not trying to win the battle; I'm working to win the war against childhood obesity and the health effects of obesity such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer."

You 'can make a difference'
Cooper said he is waging the war on childhood obesity by getting the word out to members of the community that can help make a difference.

"The fact is that we rely on so many good people to network and do what they can to bring the issue to the forefront," said Cooper. "We are the community that is putting in the infrastructure to fight the problem. I think our community has all the segments at the table. A big part of it is that we have Fort Sill resources thanks to Major Gen. Peter Vangjel, who is at the hub of this issue. Not only does he think it's important, the Department of the Army thinks it's important."

CG's Challenge Walk credited
The Army Community Covenant, which was signed Aug. 19, introduced the Fit Kids initiative, which underscores our strong community relationship, said Cooper. "The Fit Kids initiative and the CG's Challenge Walk on Nov. 25 have helped to shine the spotlight on the important issue," he said.

"I think Vangjel has done so much for the Fit Kids coalition and I expect we will see a lot more in the future," said Cooper. "I think this award is not only for me but for Fort Sill and all the people who are helping to focus attention on the issue of childhood obesity."