By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News
Healthy Henry County Communities is partnering with the Mt. Pleasant Community School District, applying for the Wellmark Foundation grant to potentially replace the worn-out tennis courts with a pickleball court.
Adam Smith, Exercise Science teacher at the middle school, said that with the tennis courts sitting directly behind the Amtrak station, it is often passenger?s first impression of Mt. Pleasant. It is also a highly visible aspect of the middle school.
?Those two things are negatives for the school and visitors,? Smith said over the phone during a Healthy Henry County Communities (HHCC) meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 6. ?We thought this is a thing that either needs to be demoed or rebuilt.?
Kelly Carr, HHCC Coordinator, said that because the Wellmark Foundation grant application is due Feb. 23, she wanted to have Smith talk to the board as soon as possible so they could decide whether or not this was a project they wanted to undertake.
The grant is a 100 percent match grant. Smith estimates the project will cost $100,000. If HHCC and the school district is awarded the money, they will have 16 weeks to raise $50,000, or half the funds for the project, to be eligible for the grant.
Carr believes that partnering with the school will make their grant application really strong. They also potentially want to partner with Mt. Pleasant Art IMPACT to involve local artists in beautification of the property.
Pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in the country and in Southeastern Iowa, with courts in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and the Quad Cities. At Mt. Pleasant Middle School, Smith has about 20 students giving up their study hall time and he gives up his teacher prep time to oversee pickleball as an extracurricular activity. Smith has already acquired indoor pickleball nets.
?The next step is trying to get this outside, visible to the community,? Smith said, adding that he has a 12-year-old student play very competitively with a 70-year-old man in the community every Saturday. ?It bridges the gap,? he said.
?I think Mt. Pleasant could capitalize on [the growth of pickleball] and be one of the first to have fully-dedicated courts,? Smith continued.
Smith has a vision to also add a walking path around the school and pickleball courts, making it a hot spot in the community for everyone to enjoy. ?Seeing a multidimensional product would be a very inviting space,? he said.
From his understanding, the current tennis courts are ?pretty much junk.? The project would be made easier because, although pickleball courts are slightly bigger than tennis courts, it would have a similar footprint. There would also be plenty of ?green space? left for the marching band to practice on in the fall.
Smith said he has spoken with Mt. Pleasant Community School District Superintendent John Hendriksen, who supports the idea, but also understands that the school cannot fund the entire project right now. Smith said he already has secured some private donors and has fundraising capabilities.
In other news, Zach James, with Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission, has made headway with the 5-2-1-0 Childhood Health Campaign. The 5-2-1-0 Childhood Health Campaign is a reminder to include five servings of fruits and vegetables with meals each day, limit screen time to two hours or less, have one hour of physical activity every day, and drink zero drinks with sugar like fruit juice or soda.
James has done an assessment with Henry County Headstart, Little Panthers Preschool, The REC Center after school program, New London Daycare and Family Medicine to draft up a work plan for healthy policy and environmental changes in each.
Policy changes include formalizing policies such as no outside celebration food allowed such as cupcakes, prohibiting sugary drinks, prohibiting the use of food as a reward and limiting screen time. Environmental changes include providing opportunities for physical activity daily, working with students and parents to engage in physical activity together, and engaging community partners to help support healthy eating and active living.
James said that the program doesn?t have enough funding to do everything they would like to do and asked HHCC board members if they have an idea for a funding source or a way to share resources with other organizations, to let him know.
?We?re looking for opportunities to connect some of these things,? James said.