LAKE FOREST, Ill. — A sea of orange Fuel Up to Play 60
T-shirts worn by students selected to participate in a Reward Summit flooded
into the Walter Payton Center at Halas Hall.
More than 150 students, representing 21 schools, gathered
for the training camp to recognize the hard work by the students. These students
committed to being active, to make a difference in their community and at their
The Fuel Up to Play 60 program was created several years ago
by a partnership of the National Football League and the National Dairy Council,
and it also is supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“I’m a diehard Bears fan, so getting to meet Bears players
you see on TV on Sunday is cool,” said Shauna Gilles, National Fuel Up to Play
60 ambassador and an eighth-grader at Heritage Grove Middle School in
Plainfield. “Seems like a lot of work to be an ambassador, but it all pays off
in the end.”
The program included a drill and skills session where
students worked their way through four stations and were led by Chicago Bears
No. 63 Roberto Garza, center and guard, and No. 20 Craig Steltz, safety.
“My most fun moment being a student ambassador was when I
got to go to the Bears game,” said Taylor Healy, Illinois Fuel Up to Play 60
ambassador. “Even though it was crazy cold, I had a lot of fun. I got to do the
coin toss, and I met a lot of Bears players.”
During the interactive dairy farmer session, the students
met Kevin Hildebrandt, whose family milks more than 400 cows near South Beloit.
“My grandparents bought this farm in 1977,” he told the
kids. “After a couple of years, he bought a herd of cows the year my dad
graduated from high school.”
Over the past 30 years, the dairyman said, the farm has
“This barn has individual free stalls, where the cows all
lay side by side,” he explained. “The cows are milked in a parlor twice a day,
every day, no matter what. And we feed them every day, just like you eat every
Hildebrandt showed the students examples of the various
feeds that are used to make a total mixed ration for the dairy cows. He talked
about high moisture corn, corn silage, protein and haylage.
“Haylage is made from alfalfa that we cut with an over-sized
lawn mower,” he explained. “We chop it up into little pieces.”
The kids also learned about the ear tags that are put into
the cows’ ears and a collar that the dairyman places around the cows’ necks.
“This collar also has a pedometer, and it logs the activity
of the cow, including how much it chews and walks,” Hildebrandt said. “So we
know if a cow is sick because she isn’t chewing or moving around as much as she
His mom, Amy, led the students in a milk toast during the
lunch break held at Halas Hall, the Chicago Bears headquarters, which also
includes the team’s front office, as well as indoor and outdoor practice
“Raise your glasses on behalf of Illinois milk producers,”
Amy Hildebrandt said. “I’d like to wish to all the students, advisers another
successful year of Fuel Up to Play 60.”
This was the first time Vista Fletcher, Midwest branch chief
for schools and food distribution of the USDA, attended a Reward Summit for the
“I am excited to be here,” she said. “This is such an
awesome event because physical activity is so important for kids to start at an
Jordan Mills, No. 67, who plays offensive tackle for the
Chicago Bears, told the kids that he was inspired by his parents.
“I’m the youngest boy out of seven, and I have a little
sister,” he said. “My parents showed me by example how to work hard.”
In addition, Mills also had coaches and teachers who saw his
“They told me if I put my mind to it, I could be
successful,” he recalled.
“If someone tries to help you, listen,” the Bears player
stressed to the students. “When your parents talk, listen because they are older
and wiser for a reason.”
Mills encouraged the students to work toward their goals.
“Be whatever you want — if you want to play sports, play
sports,” he said. “Or you can be a doctor, lawyer, astronaut, chemist or a dairy
farmer. It’s not going to be easy, but you’ll succeed.”