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Nearly 20 Champions of Sport Will Attend SGMA’s 9th National Health-through-Fitness Day in D.C.

Date: 3/4/08

WASHINGTON, D.C. – March 4, 2008 – Getting in good physical shape and learning the importance of being physically fit have never been more important.......and a Heisman Trophy winner, an NFL Hall of Famer, a former NBA superstar, and an Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast are leading a group ready to deliver that message to the U.S. Congress! The setting for this event is SGMA’s 9th Annual National Health-through-Fitness Day – Wednesday, March 12th in Washington, D.C.

On National Health-through-Fitness Day (www.getinvolved.sgma.com), a delegation of well known athletes, sporting goods manufacturers, sports retailers, physical educators, concerned citizens, and association leaders will visit Capitol Hill to lobby Congress to encourage passage of two legislative initiatives that will help Americans (of all ages) become more physically fit.

Those legislative initiatives are:

(1) Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP) Bill, which provides grants to school districts and community based organizations to support innovative physical education and activity methods;

(2) PHIT (Personal Health Investment Today) Act, which will encourage improved health through increased physical activity for all Americans by making healthy, active lifestyles more affordable -- through the use of tax incentives.

Some of the more prominent people in this delegation will include former Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker (University of Georgia -- 1982), NFL Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow (Chargers), former NBA superstar Clyde Drexler (Trail Blazers & Rockets), and U.S. Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast Dominique Dawes. Other sports celebrities scheduled to appear that day include current NFL quarterback Jason Campbell (Redskins); baseball Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter (Expos, Mets, Dodgers, & Giants); Arena Football League Commissioner David Baker; undefeated welterweight boxing champion Andre Berto; 2004 U.S. Olympic women’s basketball gold medalist and WNBA superstar Swin Cash (Shock); 1974 National League MVP Steve Garvey (Dodgers & Padres); former women’s World Cup champion and Olympic soccer gold medalist Julie Foudy; former NHL player Warren Young; recently retired U.S. men’s national team soccer striker Eddie Pope; former Gold Glove catcher Mike Matheny (Cardinals, Brewers, & Giants); former NFL players Ken Harvey (Redskins & Cardinals) and John Booty (Cardinals, Jets, Giants, Eagles, & Buccaneers); and current NFL players Joe Thomas (Browns), Patrick Kerney (Seahawks), and Onzy Elam (Jets).

Right now, only about 25% of U.S. schoolchildren have a daily P.E. class. Illinois is the only state that requires daily P.E. from kindergarten through 12th grade. The lack of daily P.E. is evident on the expanding waistlines of American children.

“My life wouldn’t be where it is today without P.E. class,” noted football great Walker, who is the volunteer chairman of National Health-through-Fitness Day this year. “P.E. in schools is as important as the other subjects.”

For the PEP Bill, this consortium will ask Congress to provide $100 million for Fiscal Year (FY) 2009. The group plans meetings with more than 100 U.S. Senators and Representatives that day. In FY 2001, the PEP Bill was approved for $5 million. In FY 2002, Congress allotted $50 million; $60 million in FY 2003; $70 million in FY 2004; $73 million in FY 2005; $73 million in FY 2006; $73 million in FY 2007; and $75.7 million in FY 2008. To date, the U.S. Department of Education has awarded nearly $500 million in PEP grants to fund more than 900 quality P.E. programs across the country.

The PHIT Act would change current federal tax law to allow for the deduction or use of pre-tax dollars to cover expenses related to sports, fitness and other physical activities. Once an individual or family spends 7.5% of their income on qualified medical expenses, they can deduct physical activity expenses directly. More than 45 million Americans live in families that meet the 7.5% threshold to deduct medical expenses. PHIT would also allow Americans to invest up to $1,000 annually in existing pre-tax medical accounts to pay for physical activities. PHIT would only expand the eligible expenses for pre-tax Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA), Health Savings Accounts (HSA), Medical Savings Accounts (MSA), and/or medical reimbursement arrangements. PHIT would not increase contribution limits to these accounts.

“Too many people in the U.S. are overweight and obesity is growing at an alarming rate,” said SGMA President Tom Cove. “PEP grants give American children the chance to learn about the importance of physical fitness on a daily basis. Our children must have quality physical education in our schools. PHIT encourages healthy, active lifestyles by making physical activity more affordable for individuals and families. We need to start focusing more time and resources on preventing illness as opposed to treating people once they are already sick. If we encourage active lifestyles as a way to help reverse the obesity trend, then the costly illnesses associated with inactivity will decrease.”

“Participation in our National Health-through-Fitness Day activities is a win-win for all those affected by the legislation,” said Bill Sells, SGMA’s director of government relations. “You get the chance to meet face-to-face with members of Congress to ask for their support of legislation to prevent illness through increased physical activity. The PEP Bill will expose thousands of American children to a new approach to P.E. PHIT will encourage physically active lifestyles by making sports, fitness and recreational activities more affordable for families.”

Accusplit (the official pedometer of the PGA Tour), General Mills (makers of Wheaties, the breakfast of champions), Polar (the world's number one heart rate monitor), and ICON Health & Fitness (the founders & developers of NordicTrack, FreeMotion, Pro-Form, Weslo, Weider, and Image) are Supporting Sponsors of this advocacy effort. Accusplit is donating pedometers to those who participate in the National Health-through-Fitness Day lobbying effort so that each person can calculate how far they walk that day on Capitol Hill. Leaders in the SGMA’s Legal Task Force -- Snell & Wilmer, LLP; Frilot, LLC; Duane Morris, LLP; Morrison Mahoney, LLP; and Liner, Yankelevitz, Sunshine & Regenstreif, LLP – are also generously supporting National Health-through-Fitness Day.

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