BILOXI – Efforts to build a healthy community paid dividends for Tupelo on Wednesday.
Tupelo was one of two cities recognized by BlueCross BlueShield of Mississippi Foundation in its Healthy Hometown grant competition.
Tupelo, which won top honors for a city over 15,000, will receive a $25,000 grant from the foundation to continue health and wellness initiatives.
“It was certainly a pat on the back and a salute to all the work we’ve done in a year,” said Mayor Jack Reed Jr., who was in Biloxi at the Mississippi Municipal League Conference, where the award was announced Wednesday.
Hernando took home the overall top award as the Healthiest Hometown with a $50,000 grant.
Also Wednesday, Tupelo was recognized with an Award of Excellence from the municipal league for the 3-foot law, which requires motorists give cyclists and pedestrians three feet of space when passing them. The law was proposed in memory of John Paul Frerer, a Tupelo teen killed in an August cycling accident.
“We did well today,” Reed said.
Five cities – Tupelo, Hernando, Ridgeland, Starkville and Hattiesburg – completed the comprehensive application process that looked at city ordinances and policies that promote health and wellness, community activities, healthy fare at restaurants and opportunities to get active.
“We set the bar really high,” said John Sewell, BlueCross BlueShield director of corporate communications. Cities competing for the grants had to be smoke-free and have other wellness laws on the books in addition to hosting health community activities. The applications were judged by three out-of-state health and wellness experts.
“Some of these things we’ve been doing for years,” said Liz Dawson, who led the Mayor’s Healthy City Task Force in Tupelo with Hank Boerner and was the lead writer for the grant application. “It’s refreshing to finally get some kudos for that.”
The task force organized special activities over the past year, including the Mayor’s Marathon, which challenged Tupelo residents to walk 26.2 miles during the month of October; Trim Down, Tone Up Tupelo weight loss contest, where teams of residents lost more than 4,000 pounds in nine weeks; and Fitness in Tupelo, where free fitness classes were offered across town.
The task force will put together recommendations for the grant money, which has to be used for health and wellness efforts, potentially expanding the Trim Down, Tone Up and Mayor’s Marathon events, Dawson said.
Contact Michaela Gibson Morris at (662) 678-1599 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal