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April 29, 2021

DES MOINES, IA – Officials from Wellmark® Blue Cross® and Blue Shield® and Grand Blue Mile are pleased to present Iowa Kidstrong with a $5,000 donation to help support their school-based youth fitness programs as the multiweek 2021 virtual Grand Blue Mile presented by Wellmark concludes April 30. This donation was made possible through the proceeds from the thousands of registrants, from more than 30 states, including 157 Iowa communities, who took part in what became America's largest one-mile virtual run.

"We are so grateful for the transformative partnership with Wellmark and the Grand Blue Mile," said Cindy Elsbernd, founder and executive director of Iowa Kidstrong. "Now more than ever, it's important that we continue to support Iowa's youth, whether they are in a classroom or learning remotely, with programming aimed at keeping them active throughout their day."

Iowa Kidstrong External Link was founded in 2005 to address the childhood obesity epidemic and works to create a positive and encouraging fitness environment for central Iowa youth. In 2006, Iowa Kidstrong created KidStriders, an incentive program that encourages students to run or walk laps before class, after class or at recess. Each student-participant strives toward a goal of reaching 26.2 cumulative miles — the distance of a marathon — by the end of the school year.

This year, as part of the Iowa Kidstrong Celebration of Champions, students from Clay Elementary in the Southeast Polk Community School District were invited to Drake Stadium on Wednesday, April 21, to compete in a fun run against a virtual Karissa Schweizer — the reigning American 5K record holder and former Drake Relays Champion and Dowling Catholic alum. The students had 14:23.92, Schweizer's American 5K record, to complete as many laps on the Blue Oval as they could. They were able to complete an impressive four laps.

"For over a decade, Wellmark and the Grand Blue Mile have been proud supporters of Iowa Kidstrong, awarding more than $90,000 to support our collective goal of keeping kids active," said Chris Verlengia, Wellmark's senior brand marketing manager. "We know Iowa Kidstrong has inspired thousands of students to make healthier choices, and KidStriders teaches them the importance of goal setting and perseverance — building blocks of strong character they'll carry through life."

The 13th annual Grand Blue Mile presented by Wellmark is scheduled for April 26, 2022. For more information, visit GrandBlueMile.com External Link.