Donation a perfect 'fit' at Coalhurst High

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University practicum student Cidney Stinnissen shows a Coalhurst High School student how to use fitness equipment recently donated to the Palliser school.

COALHURST – The community made it possible, so it’s only fitting Coalhurst High School is looking to return the favour.

Students and staff won’t be the only ones who will benefit from a recent community donation of fitness equipment to the Palliser school. Athletic director Dayna Craddock says plans call for parents and other Coalhurst residents to also enjoy the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

“To move and be active, we know how important that is for kids,” says Craddock, who is part of Palliser Regional Schools’ Health Champions program. “That doesn’t stop once you hit Grade 12, it continues on forever.”

The goal is for students and staff to access the equipment during the day, and then open it up to the community for evening fitness classes and the like.  

It is important to bridge that gap between community and school, says Craddock, noting there’s not a lot of recreation facilities in town.

“We want our community to know our school. We want to be a bigger part of the community and give back in a way that is meaningful,” she says.

Coalhurst High School focused on the nutritional aspect of healthy living the last couple of years. The desire this year was to upgrade the outdated and cumbersome fitness equipment set up on the gym stage, a task Cidney Stinnissen was happy to tackle.

The practicum student with the University of Lethbridge’s Education Faculty took the reins of Craddock’s phys-ed classes and options like Active Lifestyles at the beginning of the school year. Tasked with the search for fitness equipment donations, Stinnissen proceeded to burn up the telephone lines checking fitness clubs near and far.

She definitely had a passion for the project – with a kinesiology degree to her credit and time spent as a personal trainer – and her persistence paid off. Through a family connection she learned Apple Fitness Store had just recommissioned some gym equipment from a Calgary hotel. It was free for the taking if Stinnissen could pick it up.

“A huge thanks to Apple Fitness. It always comes down to money and there’s just not a lot of it to go around when you have a lot of needs,” she says.

Along with thanking her parents for the donation of a truck and horse trailer to pick up the equipment and a donation of mirrors from A&C Stinnissen Ltd., she is grateful for instructors who have volunteered to help with classes on their own time, including Ashley-Raye Miles of Kinetic Cycle.

Craddock, her mentor-teacher, gives Stinnissen full marks for her initiative.

The old fitness equipment was already well-used when it was donated to the school several years, although it did meet the needs of the time. Craddock says it was used initially to provide an alternative for injured students unable to take part in regular gym class.

As classes grew larger, it became necessary to integrate the equipment into the phys-ed curriculum. Over time it began to wear out, however, and became more of a seating area than a functional piece of fitness equipment, she says.

Student response to the new fitness equipment has been “phenomenal,” says Stinnissen. They pitched in to help tear down the old equipment and members of the school’s sports teams are using it before and after school. There’s also hope other students will make use of it at those times or when they have spares.

“We want them to stay active and be healthy – to get them off their phones a little bit and just realize you don’t have to be in a school sport to be active,” she says.

The high school has also formed partnerships with Coalhurst Elementary School the past few years and Craddock says perhaps their students could make use of the fitness equipment as well.

Coalhurst High School is looking for more fitness equipment to allow it to expand what it can offer, and it’s on the waiting list with local gyms should surplus gear becomes available. The school is open to donations from other sources, especially kettle balls, free weights, medicine balls and other equipment which can be moved around the multi-use stage space as necessary. The challenge is to find equipment that will fit their space and maximize participation.

While Stinnissen’s practicum experience at CHS has since ended, those wishing to make a donation can contact the school office at 403-381-4812.