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Schools embrace program that promotes healthy living

DENVER -- With childhood diabetes, obesity and other diseases on the rise, more school districts are embracing new and comprehensive health curriculums to help children make smart choices.

Healthy Learning Paths, a nonprofit promoting that type of curriculum, is reaching more children in the Denver area every day.

At an assembly on Wednesday at Broomfield Heights Middle School, children heard an inspiring story from one of the program's passionate supporters -- 1972 Olympic marathon gold medalist Frank Shorter.

“I think I’ve given you some idea of what exercise did for me," Shorter told the children.

Shorter has thrown his celebrity and support behind Healthy Learning Paths, serving roughly 1,000 elementary and middle school children each year.

The effort is designed to teach children and adults about physical, mental and emotional health, while providing tips on how to prevent disease.

“We teach evidence-based health behaviors on how to prevent illness," said Healthy Learning Paths founder Chris Marchioni.

Marchioni started the program more than 10 years ago. It is now active in six Denver-area school districts and indirectly reaches even more school districts through teacher conferences.

“We actually have teachers that we’ve worked with in elementary schools and even in middle schools who are using parts or all of our curriculum in their classrooms," Marchioni said.

The immersive health teachings go beyond the standard health class textbook. With more kids making poor choices, school districts are recognizing programs like Healthy Learning Paths as huge benefits.

“They show you what you can do to become healthy and what you have to eat to become healthy," Broomfield Heights seventh-grader Mya Salines said.

On Wednesday, during the event called "Spread the Power of Health," children heard Shorter’s inspiring story -- running to and from middle school daily to escape abuse.

“In the Olympics, if you watch me run, I run in a way that sort of looks like I’m carrying books," said Shorter.

The eighth annual Frank Shorter RACE4Kids’ Health 5K and Expo is April 9 at 8 a.m. at the FirstBank Center in Broomfield. The race is a fundraiser for Healthy Learning Paths.