Dairyman Mark Erdman of Chenoa, Ill., assists former Chicago Bears wide receiver Anthony Morgan (right) with the passing and receiving drill during the Fuel Up to Play 60 Reward Training Camp at Soldier Field. Students from 17 schools earned the opportunity to participate in the event, which also included a tour of the Bears locker room, as a reward for their efforts to eat healthy foods and stay active.
Dairyman Mark Erdman of Chenoa, Ill., assists former Chicago Bears wide receiver Anthony Morgan (right) with the passing and receiving drill during the Fuel Up to Play 60 Reward Training Camp at Soldier Field. Students from 17 schools earned the opportunity to participate in the event, which also included a tour of the Bears locker room, as a reward for their efforts to eat healthy foods and stay active.

CHICAGO — Students from 17 schools earned the opportunity to attend the Fuel Up to Play 60 Reward Training Camp to recognize their determination and commitment to being active and making healthy food choices.

Held at Soldier Field, the event featured time for the students to participate in on-field activities with Craig Steltz, Chicago Bears safety, and Anthony Morgan, a former Chicago Bears wide receiver.

Fuel Up to Play 60 is a school program that encourages youngsters to eat healthy foods and commit to at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. The program is organized by the National Dairy Council, the Midwest Dairy Council and the NFL, along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

On the football field, the students ran food tray relays and practiced three football skills — running back drills, agility drills and passing and catching the football, which was thrown by Chicago Bears players.

In addition, the afternoon featured tours of the Chicago Bears locker room and the opportunity for all of the students to have a picture taken with Morgan.

“We support the Fuel Up to Play 60 because we love that it encourages kids to drink milk every day,” said Karen Bohnert, whose family operates Bohnert Jerseys near East Moline. “Milk is packed with nine essential nutrients and vitamins, and it is good for growing bodies.”

Bohnert told the students about the family dairy farm that includes her husband, Scott, his brother, Brian, and their parents, Jim and Wanda Bohnert. The 350 Jersey cows on the Bohnert farm are milked twice a day.

“Our cows produce about 60 pounds of milk per cow per day, which is about seven gallons,” she explained.

“Our mission is simple. We want to provide awesome care to our cows, so they provide a wholesome, nutritious product for us all to enjoy. Our cows are housed in a free-stall barn, which means they can walk around, lie down, eat and drink at their own will.”

In addition, these barns are equipped with large fans to keep the cows cool and comfortable in the summer.

“We also have side curtains on the barns that can be raised and lowered, so in the cold months the snow and wind stays out,” Bohnert said.

Several additional dairy farmers attended the event, including Mark Erdman, a dairyman from Chenoa, who also is a member of the National Dairy Promotion and Research board of directors.

“My dad was on the National Dairy Board 20 years ago,” said Erdman, who operates the 500-cow dairy farm together with his father, Myron, and his two nephews.

“This is a good promotion for dairy products, and we are trying to help urban kids understand what happens on a farm,” Erdman said. “And this is a great experience for kids just to play on Soldier Field, plus they get to visit the locker room.”

“Being a professional athlete, nutrition and staying active is a huge component,” Steltz told the students.

“I like to look at our bodies like airplanes — there is certain fuel you have to put in an airplane or it doesn’t fly,” said Steltz, who played for Louisiana State University before he was drafted by the Bears in 2008. “There is certain food you have to put in your body to stay active, and the fuel you put in your body every morning helps you prepare for your day.”

“Everybody here wants to support the greatness in you,” Morgan said. “That’s why we want to make sure you consume nutrition-rich foods because what goes in the inside will show on the outside.”

Morgan challenged the students to eat healthy every day and to be leaders at their school.

“Tell your classmates that they need to get with the program,” he said. “You are here at Solder Field because you worked hard.”

Each student at the event received a Fuel Up to Play 60 shirt, and Morgan encouraged the students to wear them proudly.

“For us to tackle childhood obesity, we don’t stop here,” he said. “We have a vision and a passion. We want every young person to fly like an eagle, so keep your dreams in front of you.”

“I know you know how to eat healthy because that’s part of the reason you’re here today,” added Julie Mikkelson, regional director of USDA Food and Nutrition Service Special Nutrition Programs. “One thing we say at the USDA is we like to eat smart and play hard.”

Mikkelson works with the National School Lunch Program.

“Hopefully, you’ve seen some changes this year in that program,” she said. “We’ve increased the fruits and vegetables. Added more whole grain, low-fat dairy and lean protein items.”

Ray Arceo, wellness educator at Miguel Juarez Middle School, served as the Fuel Up to Play 60 program adviser of the year.

“The program adviser of the year does several things really well,” he explained. “We encourage other program advisers to get their schools involved in this great movement, we empower students to get better at eating right and at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day and we motivate the whole community because when you combine healthy eating with physical activity, it combats childhood obesity.”

The Waukegan school, which includes grades sixth through eighth, has been involved with the program since 2009.

“I’ve seen improvement in cardiovascular fitness,” Arceo said. “And I’ve seen a 360-degree transition from this program in building self esteem in both boys and girls.”

Students at the middle school now ask Arceo when the Fuel Up to Play 60 program will start.

“We have no problem getting students to take action,” he added.

Students from the following schools attended the event: Abbott Middle School, Boone Elementary School, Burr Ridge Middle School, Carson Elementary School, Coolidge Elementary School, Dieterich Elementary School, Gregory Math and Science Elementary School, Heritage Grove Middle School, Hyde Park Elementary School, Johnson Elementary School, Kinzie Elementary School, Miguel Juarez Middle School, Pulaski International School of Chicago, Richmond Elementary School, Ridge Family Center for Learning, Rollins Elementary School and Timber Ridge Middle School.

For more information about the program, visit www.fueluptoplay60.com.