Amy Brocato Pearson
Jacksonville Daily Progress
Jasper Johns eyed the fire hose, sizing it up with his dark brown eyes as he would a formidable opponent.
In fact, the approximately 55-pound hose was indeed a formidable opponent for the 8-year-old, who slung it over his shoulder and dragged it about 10 yards in a remarkable feat of strength for the slight, wiry youngster.
"He'll never let a challenge defeat him," said his proud mother, Steviah.
Nearby, Cayden Franklin, 11, dangled from a chin-up bar until a member of the Marine Corps League gave him a boost to get him going.
"That's harder than it looked," Cayden said when dropping down from the bar.
The Jacksonville Fire Department and the Jacksonville Marine Corps League were two of about 26 vendors who set up booths Saturday at the inaugural FitCOUNTY Day in the Park event at the Jacksonville Athletic Complex.
Approximately 500 area residents turned out in support of the event, which showcased a healthy lifestyle for Cherokee County.
"The FitCOUNTY Cherokee planning team was very pleased with the community support we received for our first ever event," said Chris Taylor, executive director of Cherokee County Public Health, who heads the FitCOUNTY coalition. "From the Jacksonville Baseball Association and City of Jacksonville asking to partnerwith us on the location, to our County Judge Chris Davis and local sports hero Luke McCown pledging their support, to our wonderful vendors, we felt that we produced an event Cherokee County residents could be proud of.
"Saturday marked the beginning of a new era for our residents, one where people now realize that health is the key to a good life, and without it, there is nothing."
Hometown football hero and newly signed New Orleans Saints back-up quarterback Luke McCown opened the event in the park.
"In our culture more and more, activities are indoors and behind desks or playing video games," he said. "Our overall health is declining because of it. I came here to help promote a healthy and active lifestyle and be an example of how that could be a benefit."
In his opening statement, McCown expressed his hope to "set the community in the right direction" and his belief that the FitCOUNTY Cherokee program, and the Day in the Park event, helped to bring the community together.
Steviah Jones said she and her son came to the event because "it's something positive for our community and for our life."
"We need to start being more healthy and eating better, I think everyone could," she said. "And I think that having things like this make us think more carefully."
Cherokee County Judge Chris Davis issued a proclamation declaring April 6, 2013 "Fit-COUNTY Cherokee Day In the Park."
He read the proclamation to the crowd assembled on the blustery day, including, "Cherokee County wishes to leverage its local public health department to create lasting strategies that improve the lives of area residents."
Adventure Bootcamp provided fitness demonstrations. Wendi Green, Cherokee County Texas Agrilife Extension agent, provided information on healthy meals and smoothie samples.
“It was a tremendous turnout of youth and adults that seemed truly interested in the opportunities right here in Cherokee County to get the whole family on track to a healthier lifestyle,” Green said.
The Jacksonville Fire Department gave children life vests to promote water safety. The Cherokee County Med-ical Society fitted children with free bike helmets. The Lone Star Military Farmers group gave out tomato plant seedlings and information on growing healthy food at home and many other groups were on hand to help Cherokee County residents on the road to a healthier lifestyle.
The FitCOUNTY Cherokee coalition plans to make this an annual event.